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Exactly two years after four Army special forces soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger, the U.S. State Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information that would help it arrest anyone who helped plan or carry out the ambush.
In a press release on Friday, the State Department said it is also offering a separate reward of up to $5 million for information that would help it track down Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of the terrorist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), which claimed responsibility for the ambush.
According to the press release, the funding is offered through the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program, a 35-year-old program which has paid more than $150 million to more than 100 people "who provided actionable information that helped bring terrorists to justice or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide."
The ambush occurred near the village of Tongo Tongo, in the desert of southwestern Niger. The four slain soldiers, Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson, were part of a group of U.S. and Nigerien forces that set out in unarmored vehicles for a reconnaissance mission that morphed into a disastrous attempt to capture a terrorist. Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed in the attack.
The ambush kicked off an investigation into Army leadership decisions preceding the ambush. Investigators found a series of errors leading up to the mission, such as mischaracterizing the U.S. troops' initial mission as civil-military reconnaissance.
However, the review did not recommend for any high-level commanders to be punished.
The announcement comes the same day the company commander of the ambushed soldiers wrote an op-ed in The New York Times saying the Army botched its investigation of the ambush and failed to hold its senior leaders accountable.
The commander, former Army Maj. Alan Van Saun, said he received an unwarranted reprimand from the Army after the ambush. The reprimand effectively ended his career, he said.
"[W]hile subsequent reviews of the investigation offered yet another chance to hold people responsible, those opportunities fled quickly, leaving the chain of command, in which I had entrusted so much, unaccountable for decisions they made in my absence, but for which I was left responsible," Van Saun wrote.
U.S.-trained bomb-sniffing dogs sent to ally Jordan are losing their will to work and dying due to improper care, a recently released Department of State inspector general evaluation found.
The U.S. has been sending these specially trained dogs to Jordan for years as part of the extensive Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP). Since 2008, at least 10 of the dogs have died from medical problems. Other canines were found to be living in unhealthy conditions that the IG report characterized as "disturbing."
"Canines lose their effectiveness when their quality of life is poor," the report read.
The State Department announced Wednesday that notorious ISIS bride Hoda Muthana, a U.S.-born woman who left Alabama to join ISIS but began begging to return to the U.S. after recently deserting the terror group, is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return home.
Russia has indicted American citizen Paul Whelan on charges of espionage, according to the Interfax news agency.
"An indictment has been presented. Whelan dismisses it," a source told Interfax.