A deadly ambush in Niger
The U.S. military’s growing presence in Africa was thrust into the spotlight in October, when four special forces soldiers died in an ambush in Niger. Their 12-man team, which was accompanying 30 Nigerien soldiers on a reconnaissance mission, came under heavy attack from about 50 ISIS-affiliated militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and heavy machine guns. The American soldiers fought back for an hour before calling in air support; French jets and helicopters arrived an hour after that. The bodies of three of the fallen soldiers were recovered that day. But Sgt. La David Johnson’s corpse wasn’t found until 48 hours later, reportedly a mile from the ambush site; more of his remains were discovered a month after that. One villager said his hands were bound and that he had a large impact wound on the back of his head, suggesting he’d been captured, beaten, and executed. A Pentagon investigation due to be released this month, however, reportedly will conclude that Johnson died in a hail of gunfire. The investigation will also examine why U.S. troops were caught unawares by the terrorists, with little available support.