Three US troops killed in Niger

Three US troops killed in Niger

By Loree Lewis   
A Niger Army patrol leader moves during small unit tactics training as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 3, 2017. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher C. Klutts)

This article has been updated. Oct. 5, 5:02 PM ET.

WASHINGTON – Three U.S. soldiers and one from another unidentified nation were killed during a partnered counterterrorism operation in southwest Niger, a landlocked west Africa nation, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Two other U.S. troops were injured and evacuated in stable condition to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, two hours from the U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart.

The U.S. and Niger security force “patrol came under hostile fire” during an advice and assistance mission, according to Africa Command. In a news conference Thursday, the chief Pentagon spokesperson. Dana White, and Joint Staff Director, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., declined to offer any additional details about the operation, citing that partner operations were ongoing.

The officials said the Defense Department was “not prepared” to discuss if enemy forces were killed, of if the troops had a surveillance drone overhead. They said they would not discuss what operation the troops were conducting, as is relatively standard.

The U.S. military categorizes “advice and assist” missions as enabling operations, where a small number of U.S. troops enable local militants with U.S. fire support and intelligence do the bulk of the fighting against insurgents.

The attack, near the border with Mali, occurred in an area where extremist groups are known to be active.

The Defense Department did not identify the killed soldiers, as is standard pending the notification of the next of kin. The Associated Press and other media outlets reported that the U.S. troops were Green Berets.

“U.S. Forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) efforts in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” Africa Command said in a statement. “One aspect of that is training, advising and assisting the Nigeriens in order to increase their ability to bring stability and security to their people.‎”

In February, a U.S. Special Forces officer, Shawn Thomas, 35, was killed in a non-combat related incident in Niger.

When asked Thursday if the “800” U.S. forces in Niger would change force posture after the attack, McKenzie said that the military is always reevaluating its force posture and did not refute the number 800 as the troop presence.

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