An attack has occurred in Southwest Niger leading to the death of Five Nigerien soldiers and three U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers, near Mali.
The ambush which occurred on Wednesday, also left to others wounded, Nigerien and U.S. officials revealed.
Naija News gathered that the five Nigerien soldiers were confronted during a routine patrol in an area where insurgents have been know to dwell, including from al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Islamic State, a U.S. official disclosed to Reuters.
However, the official said it was not certain who fired on the U.S. and U.S.-backed forces. Those forces were not patrolling the area with any specific objective, such as a high-value target or rescuing a hostage, the official added.
Confirming the attack, A spokesman for U.S. Africa Command said, “We can confirm reports that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger”.
Radio France International (RFI) had earlier reported a deadly ambush near the Niger/Mali border.
Also confirming the attack, Namatta Abubacar, an official for the region of Tillaberi in Niger,said five Nigerien soldiers were among those who lost their lives.
A Niger diplomatic source said the attackers had come from Mali and had killed several soldiers, without saying whether any of the U.S. troops stationed in the West African country were among the victims.
U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed by telephone on the attack by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly while Trump flew back on Air Force One from Las Vegas, where he had been visiting victims and first responders affected by Sunday’s mass shooting.
RFI said earlier on Wednesday a counter-attack was underway.
African security forces backed by Western troops are stepping up efforts to counter jihadist groups forming part of a growing regional insurgency in the poor, sparsely populated deserts of the Sahel.
A relatively new militant group called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has claimed some of the attacks.
Geoff D. Porter, head of North Africa Risk Consulting, said that any confirmation of Islamic State’s role in Wednesday’s strike would lead to a strategic shift from Libya toward the Sahel band, stretching eastwards from Senegal to Chad.
“The emphasis … will now shift south,” he said.
The U.S. Africa Command has hundreds of soldiers deployed across the region, including at an air facility in Agadez, and offers training and support to Niger’s army in aspects such as intelligence gathering and surveillance.