U.S. soldiers ambushed by Islamic State militants near the Nigerien-Malian border Oct. 4 were likely set up by an ISIS sympathetic village, NBC News reports.
Villagers reportedly sought to delay the departure of U.S. soldiers from a meeting while ISIS militants set their trap. After leaving the meeting, the 12-man U.S. team and accompanying Nigerien security forces were ambushed by a ISIS forces equipped with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. During the hours-long engagement Sgt. La David Johnson, a U.S. soldier on the mission, was separated from his unit and declared missing, three others were dead, and two were wounded. Five Nigerien security forces were also killed during the operation
The local village chief was arrested after the attack, indicating his possible complicity, the village mayor Almou Hassane told Voice of America. “The unit stayed a little longer than expected because apparently people were aware that something was going on,” a terrorism expert in Niger told the news source. The soldiers were in the village searching for information on a close associate of an ISIS leader, the expert elaborated.
The ISIS affiliate thought to be responsible is known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and are led by Abu Walid al Sahrawi. Sahrawi has a long history with militant groups in Mali and at different times having associations with al-Qaida, running his own militia, and finally pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in May 2015.
The troops took fire for approximately one hour before air support was requested, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford revealed Monday. The one-hour delay in air support request could be for a host of reasons including belief by the team that the firefight was enough for them to handle themselves, Dunford cautioned.
After U.S. forces made the call for air support it then took an additional one hour for French mirage jets to appear overhead, but the jets did not release any munitions on the ISIS militants.
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