PENTAGON - The U.S. military has confirmed three U.S. service members were killed and two others injured when a joint U.S.-Niger military patrol was attacked Wednesday in southwestern Niger.
A U.S. defense official confirmed to VOA Thursday that the soldiers killed in the attack were members of the U.S. Army’s special forces, also known as Green Berets.
A statement from U.S. Africa Command says one soldier from a "partner nation" also was killed, whom a U.S. official confirmed was a member of the Niger Armed Forces.
Emmanuelle Lachaussee, an official at the French embassy in Washington, told VOA that French forces helped evacuate the U.S. soldiers after the assault.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on the patrol of about 10 U.S. and Nigerien soldiers. AFRICOM says the attack took place about 200 kilometers north of Niger's capital, Niamey, not far from the Niger-Mali border.
The United States has about 800 service members in Niger to provide support for the U.S. embassy and counter-terrorism training for government forces battling Islamist militant groups.
Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, Jr. told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that America has increased its military presence in Niger in recent years, calling the U.S.-Niger military relationship “a very good success story.”
He cautioned, however, that U.S. troops remain at risk during their missions in the African nation, adding that the troops killed on Wednesday died “in combat.”
Nigeria-based Boko Haram operates in eastern Niger, while Algeria-based al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and pockets of Islamic State fighters operate in the west.
AFRICOM said the U.S. personnel were "providing advice and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations" when the patrol came under hostile fire Wednesday.
It said the two wounded soldiers were evacuated in stable condition to Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Germany.
The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on the attack.