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State Department says US ambassador in Niger did not deny personnel request

Nigerien servicemembers react to contact during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 3, 2017.

ZAYID BALLESTEROS/U.S. ARMY

By BRIAN BENNETT | Tribune Washington Bureau (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. ambassador in Niger did not deny support for a U.S. Special Forces unit that lost four soldiers in a deadly ambush on the border between Mali and Niger on Oct. 4, the State Department said Friday.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported Thursday that the ambassador had resisted U.S. military requests for more drones or other surveillance aircraft and additional military medical support in Niger during the weeks and months leading up to the attack.

“Did the ambassador in Niger deny support or protection for military personnel involved in the attack? No,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement.

The U.S. Special Forces unit was part of a broader mission run by U.S. Africa Command to train Nigerien units to counter Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked groups trying to gain a foothold in the region. The attack is currently being investigated by the U.S. military and the FBI.

“As required by the president, the embassy and U.S. AFRICOM continuously engage to address security threats to all U.S. government personnel and operations,” the spokesman said. “This close cooperation ensures activities are coordinated, effective and sustainable. The president directs that disagreements, which are rare, are quickly referred to the secretary of defense and secretary of state for immediate resolution,” the official said.

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©2017 Los Angeles Times
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