WASHINGTON - A team of U.S. soldiers caught in a deadly ambush in Niger earlier this month was not the only U.S. force in the area, the Pentagon admitted Thursday.
Four Americans and four Nigeriens were killed Oct. 4 after coming under attack near the village of Tongo Tongo by a group of about 50 heavily armed fighters thought to be connected the Islamic State terror group.
Details surrounding the operation and how it went bad have been murky, with defense officials hesitant to release information while they conduct an investigation.
But a top Pentagon official said Thursday the U.S. had a second team operating in the vicinity.
"There are other teams that operate in Niger, there was one that had something to do with this operation," said Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, saying more information would be released at the appropriate time.
"It [the second team] is involved in the timeline and we just want to make sure that we have the opportunity to get it right and understand the totality of it before we bring it forward," McKenzie said.
Pentagon officials are still trying to determine why the joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol came under attack, and why it apparently took them an hour to call for help.
"The mission was conducted where we thought contact [with enemy] was unlikely," McKenzie said, adding, "I don't want to paint it as friendly territory."
"Our soldiers were armed and we knew there might be problems," he said.
Some U.S. and Nigerien officials have said there is a chance some of the local villagers may have tipped off the militants or lured the American and Nigerien forces into a trap.