The U.S. mission in Niger last month that killed four Army soldiers may have really been an attempt to take out a notorious terrorist, according to a report.
Nigerien officials told ABC News the Oct. 4 operation was actually to find a terrorist known as Dandou, one of the most dangerous figures in the African nation.
The 12-man Army team led the mission with 30 Nigerien troops and planned to either capture or kill Dandou, known by U.S. officials under the code name “Naylor Road,” ABC News reported.
It’s a departure from Pentagon statements that the mission was for “reconnaissance,” and U.S. soldiers were just in a support role.
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They were meeting local leaders near Tongo Tongo in eastern Niger when they’re believed to have been ambushed by an African terror group affiliated with ISIS.
The assignment to assail Dandou came over as the group was headed back to their base, U.S. intelligence officials told ABC News.
The American soldier leading the small Army team reportedly expressed some concern about the mission, given that another unit of U.S. and Nigerien troops couldn’t link up for the effort.
It’s unclear why they couldn’t join up with some officials saying there was a miscommunication.
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Dandou’s camp was empty when they found it during an overnight raid, ABC News reported. They burned it to the ground before heading back to camp.
On their way back to base, they’d stopped in Tongo Tongo, the small village near Niger’s border with Mali.
While the Nigerien soldiers cooked breakfast, the Americans met with a village elder, who an official told ABC News was “obviously and deliberately trying to stall them.”
By that point, officials told the network, the soldiers were up for more than 24 hours.
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“They should have been up and back in a day,” one intelligence official told ABC News. “But they were up there so long on a mission that morphed, they were spotted, surveilled and ultimately hit.”
Within 100 yards of leaving the village they were ambushed by some 50 attackers considered highly skilled.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson were all killed in the ambush.
Johnson’s body wasn’t recovered for two days, adding to a wave of backlash over the White House and Pentagon’s response to the mission.
Sgt. Johnson’s unit was returning from recon during Niger attack
Officials were unclear of how much intelligence or what type of personal protection the soldiers had.
It was compounded by a political fight between President Trump and Johnson’s family, who said he made an insensitive condolence call.
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