Fourth Green Beret's body found after Niger attack

  • Fourth Green Beret's body found after Niger attack

Fourth Green Beret's body found after Niger attack

Three US soldiers have been killed and two others wounded in an ambush in Niger near the border with Mali, the US Africa Command has said.

US officials say an American soldier missing for almost two days in Niger has been found dead.

Four Nigerien soldiers were also killed, eight were wounded and two US soldiers were wounded "after intense fighting, during which elements of the joint force showed exemplary courage", according to the statement.

"Our country is once again the target of a terrorist attack, with a large number of victims", he said. The U.S. began an extensive search and rescue operation, ending when the troops found the body of their fellow soldier on Friday.

Niger, an impoverished, arid country in Francophone West Africa, is one of the most strategic locations in USA counterterrorism operations in Africa, sandwiched between Nigeria, to the south, where an Islamic State affiliate, Boko Haram, has been fighting to establish Islamic rule, and Mali, to the west, where multiple extremist militias are present.

Some officials originally suspected the attack was the work of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

US special forces soldiers were training their Nigerien counterparts in the West African nation's volatile southwest, a growing hot-bed of jihadist violence, when the report came in of a raid nearby. They were ambushed by 40-50 militants in vehicles and on motorcycles.

On Thursday, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said the number of USA troops there has increased in recent years. That effort has increased in recent years, the Pentagon said.

Nigerien service members reacting to contact during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, on March 3, 2017.

US President Donald Trump has been briefed by his chief-of-staff, John Kelly, about the attack, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

In June, French President Emmanuel Macron won worldwide support for a United Nations -backed force of 5,000 regional troops from Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania to combat terrorism, drug smuggling and human trafficking in the Sahel.

He said there were about a dozen US forces accompanying a company of Niger troops, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission. The force gained U.N. Security Council backing in June but lacks funding.

The countries have been pressing the global community to help with equipping troops and ensuring their mobility and to help with logistics, communications and protection in the field.

Mamane contributed to this story from Niamey, Niger.