23 October 2017

Niger: At Least 12 Troops Killed in Latest Attack

Photo: Le Pays
Soldiers in Niger

Authorities in Niger say at least a dozen paramilitary police have been killed in an attack similar to the one that killed four U.S. Green Beret and four Nigerien troops Oct. 4.

Saturday’s attack took place in the same area, officials said. The raid took place in the town of Ayorou, about 200 kilometers northwest of the capital, Niamey.

Reports said the attackers were heavily armed with guns and rocket launchers. They arrived in five vehicles to launch their ambush on a gendarmes’ base. The attackers left when Nigerien military reinforcements showed up.

The area is near the border with Mali, where the attackers are thought to be based. The region has seen a string of recent incursions by jihadists.

Controversy in Washington

The deaths of the U.S. troops Oct. 4 has caused major controversy in Washington, D.C., where lawmakers are seeking more information about the incident.

In Cooper City, Florida, Saturday, mourners attended the funeral for La David Johnson, who died in the attack. Johnson’s death drew extra attention after President Donald Trump called Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, and reportedly said Johnson “knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

The incident has begun a feud between Trump and Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was listening to the call on speakerphone.

Given all the public controversy, some funeral-goers Saturday said they were glad to see not just a portrait of Johnson at the funeral, but also of the other three service members who died in the same attack. A retired police officer who attended the ceremony told the Associated Press that the move “was a good gesture on everyone’s part.”

Better communication

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has also dealt with criticism for not releasing more information about the attack.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis went to Capitol Hill on Friday to meet with Senator John McCain after the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee threatened to issue a subpoena for information about the deaths of four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger.

After meeting privately with McCain in his office Friday, Mattis promised to keep better lines of communication with Congress.

“We could be better at communication, we can always improve at communication, and that’s exactly what we’ll do,” he said.

McCain said the meeting helped to clear up the information channels.

“I felt we were not getting a sufficient amount of information and we are clearing a lot of that up now,” he said.

Earlier this week, McCain threatened to use a subpoena to compel information from the Pentagon and Trump administration officials about the Niger attack. He complained that it was easier to get information about military operations under former President Barack Obama.

The U.S. military has blamed Islamic State militants for the deaths of the four Special Forces soldiers in southwestern Niger and has said it is conducting an investigation into the Oct. 4 attack.

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