More US Troops In Niger Were Nearly Wiped Out During Ambush And Chaotic Rescue

Bullet Points

The full transcript of a video shown to Congress about the Niger ambush that killed four soldiers last October makes it clear that ISIS came close to massacring the other 38 U.S. and Nigerien troops that day.

The entire video, which runs more than 20 minutes, was shown to members of Congress ahead of the Pentagon’s May 10 news conference about the findings of an investigation into the Oct. 4, 2017, ambush near Tongo Tongo. Reporters saw a truncated 10-minute version of the video ahead of the briefing, and the transcript was distributed to reporters Thursday on CD-ROMs.

  • Although the team’s mission was characterized as civil-military reconnaissance, the goal of the U.S. and Nigerien troops was to “capture — or, if necessary, kill” an ISIS commander believed to be in the area, the video’s transcript says.
  • The team consisted of eight Special Forces soldiers, two special operations support soldiers, one intelligence contractor, on Nigerien interpreter, and 34 Nigerien troops, the transcript says. The U.S. troops traveled in three vehicles equipped with mounted M240 machine guns.
  • During the ambush, two of the U.S. vehicles became immobilized. In the one working vehicle, five passengers suffered gunshot wounds, including the driver, who was shot through the elbow but continued to drive. The team commander was riding in the back of the truck until he was thrown off. The driver circled back to pick him up and they continued on until the truck got stuck in the mud.
  • After the team established a defensive position, “They wrote short messages to loved ones on personal devices, believing they would soon be overrun,” according to the transcript.
  • Two French Mirage aircraft arrived, but unable to tell friend from foe, they only flew show-or-force missions, which eventually prompted the enemy fighters pursing the team to retreat.
  • A Nigerien reaction force arrived on the scene about four hours after the team radioed for help, but they initially fired on the friendly team for 48 seconds because they mistook the U.S. and Nigerien troops for enemy fighters. “Fortunately, no one was injured further,” the transcript says.
  • Sgt. La David Johnson’s body was found around noon on Oct. 6. As U.S. officials have repeatedly stated, he was never captured alive, the transcript says.


(U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephane Belcher)

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