The deadly ambush in Niger that left four Americans dead began as a simple reconnaissance mission before turning into a dangerous hunt for a high profile target, according to a report Tuesday.
The mission was meant to be a one-day journey, but the change in plan left the team vulnerable to attack, an official told ABC News.
“They should have been up and back in a day. Because they were up there so f—— long on a mission that morphed, they were spotted, surveilled and ultimately hit,” the official said.
The ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked bad guy the troops began searching for — code-named Naylor Road — is one of the top terror targets in Niger.
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A senior U.S. defense official told The Associated Press that the military suspects the American commandos were ambushed after someone in the village they visited told enemy fighters they were in the area.
The official confirmed the group was asked to help a second commando team in searching for a senior member of Al Qaeda.
The new revelations come a day after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. special forces unit didn’t call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy.
The 12-man Army team — alongside some 30 Nigerien troops — were attacked outside the village of Tongo Tongo, drawing fire on their way back to their base, said Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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“They did not expect resistance on this particular patrol, at least when they first planned it,” Dunford said at a Pentagon news conference.
A survivor of the ill-fated mission said the unit was inundated with machine gun fire, mortars and grenades as they left the village, according to ABC News.
Sgt. La David Johnson, whose body was not recovered for almost 48 hours after the firefight, fought valiantly to save his unit by grabbing “any and every weapon available to him,” the survivor told ABC.
Johnson’s death has also been the center of a White House controversy regarding President Trump’s condolence call to the slain sergeant’s widow.
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Dunford said Monday he still lacks many details about how the attack unfolded. He asked for patience as the military continues to investigate the incident.
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The brother of another American killed in the tragedy wants to know if the Army made any missteps during the fatal operation.
“Even with adequate resources, a fully manned team and armored vehicles, these brave men would have been lucky to exit this situation with their lives,” Will Wright said in a statement Tuesday to ABC News. “Our hope through this tragedy is to discern where, if any, mistakes were made and to fix them going forward.”
His brother, 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Georgia, was killed in the Oct. 4 ambush.
Sgt. Johnson’s unit was returning from recon during Niger attack
Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, were also killed during the ambush.
Will Wright said nothing can reverse the damage, but he hopes an investigation could glean information to prevent future attacks.
“In short, nothing that comes from this report will bring our Warriors back, but it can help to educate and prepare future Operators to better combat our enemies,” he said in a statement.
“We do not blame the Army or the President; war is hell, and even the best laid plans go to the wayside when the first bullet flies.”
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TERENCE CULLEN, DENIS SLATTERY