New information continues to come out about last month’s ISIS affiliate attack on a convoy of United States and Nigerien troops on the ground in Niger that left four American soldiers dead.
An intelligence official speaking to ABC News told them that the 12 Americans and 30 Nigeriens were ambushed by more than 50 ISIS fighters, who emerged from “perfectly spaced” firing positions along the road to attack the convoy. They “appeared to be a well-trained, seasoned force” armed with “machine guns, mortars, and RPGs.”
The six to eight vehicles that carried the troops were ambushed along a stretch of tree-lined road, ABC reports. American troops were in three vehicles, listed as two pickup trucks armed with mounted guns and an unarmed Land Cruiser.
After the initial ambush, the unnamed official says, a group of American and Nigerian soldiers moved forward from the attack about 200 yards but realized that the Land Cruiser carrying American troops was no longer with them.
Some troops turned back to find the lost vehicle, ABC reports, with Sgt. La David Johnson firing at militants from a machine gun mounted to one of the pickup trucks for cover — a detail one survivor of the account confirms. Johnson’s body was recovered two days after the ambush.
Their return came too late; the separated Land Cruiser was hit by a mortar, ABC says, killing Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright.
One hour after Americans first called for help, French jets arrived at the scene of the assault, according to Nigerian soldiers and US military officials who spoke to CNN.
Soon after, a rescue team of French special forces and Green Berets arrived in French helicopters to evacuate the wounded. Teams led by the French later returned once more to recover the bodies of the Americans killed in the Land Cruiser, CNN says.
The intelligence official cited by ABC News credits the French with preventing additional casualties. “Yes, we lost four,” the official said, “but we would have lost everybody if it wasn’t for the French.”