Islamic State Affiliate Says It Attacked U.S. Soldiers In Niger

An affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken credit for the ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops in October, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

Abu al-Walid al-Sahrawi, leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, claimed responsibility for the Oct. 4 ambush that occurred about 150 miles north of Niger's capital, according to a Mauritanian news agency.

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The attack also wounded two other U.S. soldiers and eight Nigerien troops. U.S. Africa Command, which has been investigating the ambush, is expected to release a report later this month.

The ambush occurred near the Nigerien village of Tongo Tongo. Twelve U.S. Army soldiers and 30 Nigerien forces were ambushed by as many as 50 well-armed militants traveling by vehicle with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The U.S. has roughly 800 troops in the region dealing with a wide variety of insurgent threats from Boko Haram, which reportedly has pledged loyalty to ISIS, as well as al Qaeda forces in the area.

In December, it was reported that the deaths of the eight soldiers were likely avoidable and the result of an improperly executed mission to collect information on high-ranking ISIS militants in the region.

Forty-six militant attacks were reported in the region last year, but the U.S. troops traveled in unarmored trucks and lacked heavy weaponry when they were attacked.

In a statement last month, the Defense Department refused to comment, citing an ongoing investigation, but pledged to ensure all U.S. service members deployed are properly equipped to carry out their missions.

“The investigation is exploring issues of policy, procedures, resources, doctrine, training, judgment, leadership, or valor central to this incident. The Department of Defense will always strive [to] ensure our forces are properly equipped and have the necessary capabilities to accomplish their mission and defeat any threat,” a spokesperson said.

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