- Four U.S. Army special forces soldiers and four Niger troops were killed in an ambush in Niger this week, according to U.S. authorities.
U.S. Africa Command says the U.S. forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces in their efforts against violent extremists.
They were among a squad of 10 to 12 USA soldiers on a joint patrol with Nigerien soldiers who came under attack by a force of 50 enemy fighters.
The mixed force was ambushed by fighters on dozens of vehicles and motorcycles. He was missing for two days after the attack, but Niger forces found his body Friday.
"Our country is once again the target of a terrorist attack, with a large number of victims", he said.
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Reuters had learned previously that one US soldier was missing after Wednesday's operation.
The assailants were believed to be led by Dondou Chefou, a lieutenant in a new group operating along the Mali-Niger border and called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
Officials have said the attack occurred during an "advise and assist" mission, a broad term that critics say undercuts the danger associated with training partner nations using only small numbers of troops near militant strongholds.
The African security forces together with the Western troops are planning to initiate a counter-attack on the jihadist groups that are part of the upcoming regional mutiny in the deprived and sparsely populated deserts of Sahel.
On Thursday, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said the number of USA troops there has increased in recent years.
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Asked whether the USA forces had adequate protection, including readily available medical evacuation, McKenzie said rapid evacuation is a primary concern when developing any US mission. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family members of the deceased".
"I would say that over the last few years we have increased our military presence in that country", McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon.
Nigerien service members reacting to contact during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, on March 3, 2017.
The White House said President Donald Trump was notified about the attack Wednesday night as he flew aboard Air Force One from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C.
The countries have been pressing the worldwide community to help with equipping troops and ensuring their mobility and to help with logistics, communications and protection in the field.
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In Niger, Washington has deployed around 800 soldiers, runs a drone base in the capital Niamey and is building a second in Agadez at a cost of around $100 million.