ISIS attack in Niger leaves four US soldiers dead and two wounded


During a routine training mission October 4 in Niger, West Africa, militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) carried out an ambush, leaving four American soldiers dead and two wounded, according to The New York TimesThe attack lasted 30 minutes before French Mirage jets arrived overhead, according to CNN. The four American soldiers are the first to die in combat as part of the counterterrorism mission in Niger, according to The New York Times.

A map of Niger and the attack site. Courtesy of The New York Times.

For the past 20 years, the United States has participated in a special operations task force in Niger. Additionally, in 2013, the United States helped France in Niger with an operation against the militant Islamist organization Al Qaeda. President Barack Obama sent 150 United States service members to Niamey, Niger’s capital, to help set up a surveillance drone operation over Mali to aid with the operation against Al Qaeda, according to
The United States and France have also set up a counterterrorism force in Africa that consists of 4,000 French troops and 35,000 Nigerien troops, according to The New York Times. Today, there are approximately 800 American troops in Niger and 6,000 American troops in 53 African countries who help train and advise local soldiers, according to The New York Times. 
Twelve American soldiers in a United States Special Forces team traveled from Niamey to an area near Tongo Tongo October 4, according to The mission entailed gathering information on ISIS-affiliated terrorist leader Mr. Naylor Road, who operated around Niamey before abandoning itHe quit his encampment in Niger and crossed the border, escaping to Mali. United States officials also believe that Mr. Road was involved in attacks in Burkina Faso, another West African country, according to CNN. 
Four United States soldiers died after an ambush in Tongo Tongo, Niger October 4. Courtesy of 

As the group of 12 completed a routine training mission and left in their unarmored pickup trucks, a group of 50 ISIS-affiliated militants ambushed them with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades.
French jets arrived soon after with the authorization to strike, but did not take action until French helicopters arrived to evacuate the soldiers.
30 minutes after the French arrived, American troops requested additional support to help with the wounded soldiers. Within minutes of their request, remotely piloted American aircrafts arrived, according to CNN.
United States soldiers carrying the body of Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. Courtesy of 

Once saved, American, French, and Nigerien troops launched a search mission to find American Sergeant (Sgt.) La David Johnson and Nigerien soldiers, according to CNN. This mission lasted 48 hours before soldiers found the Nigerien troops and Sgt. Johnson dead, nearly a mile away from the attack site, according to CNN. 
In an interview with CNN October 19, Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie revealed the dedication of the soldiers, who did not abandon the battlefield until they located Sergeant Johnson.
“The search continued until he was found. We never left the battlefield until he was found,” Staff Director Lieutenant General McKenzie said in an interview with CNN.
The attack left four American soldiers and ten Nigerien troops dead, as well as two soldiers wounded, according to CNN. The soldiers who died were Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Sergeant La David Johnson, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright, according to The New York Times. 
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. Courtesy of The New York Times.

Before the attack began, the Army believed that the terrorist threat was gone, and that the team was only collecting information about the terrorist. United States Africa Command spokesman Army Colonel Mark Cheadle along with other military leaders thought it was unlikely that the team would encounter enemy forces, according to CNN. 
“Had we anticipated this sort of attack we would have absolutely devoted more resources to it to reduce the risk, and that’s something we are looking at right now,” Colonel Cheadle said in an interview with CNN. “This was not expected.”
-Celia Daigle, Staff Writer