Militants release video of deadly Niger ambush
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 5, 2018
STUTTGART, Germany — Islamic State militants have released a video that purportedly shows scenes from an October ambush in Niger in which four U.S. soldiers were killed.
The video, circulated on social media on Sunday, shows a small team of U.S. troops under heavy gunfire. Overlaid with music and propaganda messages, it opens with militants appearing to assemble before the ambush.
The nine-minute video then cuts to the view from a U.S. soldier’s helmet, seized by the militants after the attack, which shows the ambush in graphic detail. This part of the video suggests the troops were heavily outgunned, with the sound of fire pouring in from several directions.
The military said it was aware of the ISIS propaganda video and asked that the imagery not be released.
A portion of the video shows the Americans crouching behind their Toyota Land Cruiser and a truck. The soldiers fired smoke grenades, which could have been used to shroud their position and to guide in airstrikes.
U.S. officials have said French air support didn’t arrive until two hours after the attack. U.S. troops didn’t call in for air support until about one hour after the assault, military officials have said. The apparent delay could have been a result of radio communication problems.
With no place to take cover, two soldiers broke into a sprint, the video shows. One soldier fell after being shot. Moments later, helmet cam video shows the soldier shot again at close range as masked militants appear around him.
Killed in the ambush were Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson and Dustin Wright.
The roughly 40-person U.S.-Nigerien patrol, which included 12 U.S. soldiers, came under attack on the morning of Oct. 4 by about 50 Islamic State fighters as the unit was returning to its camp. The propaganda video showed only a small group of U.S. soldiers, who appear to have been separated from the rest of their team.
The patrol had left the Nigerien capital of Niamey on Oct. 3 to meet with local leaders near the village of Tongo Tongo, about 53 miles to the north.
U.S. Africa Command continues to investigate the attack and whether U.S. troops had sufficient resources to carry out patrols where different militant groups operate. The military says its forces are deployed as advisers to local troops.
In the wake of the ambush some lawmakers are questioning the wisdom of the Niger mission.
“We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” after the attack. There are about 800 American troops in Niger.
AFRICOM, expected to wrap up its investigation in the coming weeks, condemned the video.
“The release of these materials demonstrates the depravity of the enemy we are fighting,” AFRICOM said in a statement. “We encourage the news media to deny ISIS a propaganda success by not purchasing, showing or bringing undue attention to these images as it re-victimizes the affected families, amplifies IS atrocities and aids in their recruiting.”