Deadly ambush of U.S. troops claimed
IS offshoot says it was behind attack that killed 4 Americans, 5 others
A group in northwestern Africa that is loyal to the Islamic State issued a statement Friday claiming responsibility for the October attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers who were on patrol with Nigerien forces.
The statement offered no explanation for the delay in claiming responsibility for the Oct. 4 attack, which U.S. officials had said was probably carried out by the group.
“We declare our responsibility for the attack on the U.S. commandos last October in the Tongo Tongo region of Niger,” said the statement, attributed to Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, who was a member of al-Qaeda’s regional branch before pledging allegiance to the Islamic State nearly two years ago.
The statement was issued to the Nouakchott News Agency, a website in Mauritania to which fighters from al-Sahraoui’s group have previously sent missives.
The assault last fall was one of the deadliest recent attacks on U.S. soldiers in Africa. In addition to the four Americans, five Nigerien soldiers who were with them on a joint mission were killed.
The four Americans were Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga.
The U.S. Africa Command has been investigating the attack, which also wounded two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops. A final report is expected to be released this month.
A 12-member Army Special Forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien soldiers when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocketpropelled grenade launchers.
The U.S. has about 800 troops in Niger, and U.S. Special Operations forces have been working with Niger’s forces in a growing effort in recent years, helping them to improve their abilities to fight extremists.
Multiple military efforts exist against extremist groups, including Boko Haram and al-Qaeda affiliates, that roam the vast Sahel, the sprawling, largely barren zone south of the Sahara desert.
The growing fight includes France’s largest overseas military operation, a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, and a five-nation regional force called the G5 Sahel that launched last year.
In its statement sent to the website, al-Sahraoui’s group also claimed responsibility for an attack on a convoy of French troops in Mali on Thursday, which the French military said wounded three soldiers, according to Reuters.
LA DAVID JOHNSON