Niamey, Niger —Breaking news from several sources confirms that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire near the Niger-Malian border.
USAFRICOM Media Relations Officer, Samantha Reho sent this press release; “We can confirm reports that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger. We are working to confirm details on the incident and will have more information as soon as we can confirm facts on the ground.
The USAFRICOM release went on to say that, “U.S. Forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region. One aspect of that is training, advising and assisting the Nigerien in order to increase their ability to bring stability and security to their people.”
However, SOFREP received a tip from a well-placed source within the Special Operations community that the U.S. forces on the ground who were ambushed were a U.S. Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA), or a Green Beret ODA.
That Green Beret team came from the 3rd Special Forces Group as 3rd group left for a deployment to central Africa sometime at or shortly after the end of July. With what we now know, their intent was to carry out their continued mission of foreign internal defense (FID) training with Nigerien military as well as advising Nigerien special troops during direct action counter-insurgency operations within Niger.
Having Green Berets in Niger for this type of mission is a highly strategic one, mainly due to the country borders with Algeria, Mali, and Libya, all of which have large terror groups such as the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and AQIM within them. And borders don’t seem to phase them as they pour through in the dense rural areas near the border, to either establish training camps, or pass on through to the next conflict zone. The Green Berets’ mission was to disrupt and destroy those operations. In recent weeks, 3rd Special Forces Group has been escalating the level of violence on the enemy in Niger, hitting targets and acting as combat advisers.
SOFREP was also able to ascertain the location of the ambush as the southwest region of Tongo Tongo, along the Niger Malian border and 130 miles north of the capitol city of Niamey. Tongo Tongo also is a short distance from the border of Niger and has been reported as a hot zone of jihadist activity. Many with ties to al-Qaeda like the now dead Mokhtar Belmokhtar and his al-Mourabitoun terror group that after his death joined with Ansar Dine and create the bulk of what is known as al-Qaeda in the Magreb (AQIM).
The source also claimed that the Green Beret ODA and its Nigerien counter-parts were ambushed by what they said was an off-shoot of al-Qaeda meaning they had an allegiance to the terror group. AQIM, who is known to have a large following in Gao to the north and along the border had been reported to have been operating across both border regions. And their operations were more than likely what brought the Green Beret team and its Nigerien counterparts to Tongo Tongo. The Special Forces ODA would have been 12 men plus about 30 Nigeriens from their partner force. They were ambushed by an estimated 40-strong enemy element.
As is this is a breaking story and information can change. SOFREP will be tracking this event and update as needed.
Feature image courtesy of: DVIDS