The U.S. military on Friday published the names of the three Army Special Forces soldiers from 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who were killed when their reconnaissance patrol with Nigerien forces came under fire.
The Pentagon and the White House have long sought to frame the US military's activities in Niger, and elsewhere on the African continent, as providing support for American allies battling extremists throughout the region - and being removed from direct combat with those groups.
After an extensive search, a USA soldier who had been missing for almost two days in Niger has been found dead, a result of a deadly ambush by dozens of Islamic extremists on a joint patrol of American and Niger forces, US military officials said Friday.
"The joint patrol was ambushed by terrorist elements in a dozen vehicles and on 20 motorbikes", Niger's Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Malian militant groups have expanded their reach into neighbouring countries, including Niger, where a series of attacks by armed groups led the government in March to declare a state of emergency in the southwest.
Two other soldiers were wounded in the incident and are receiving medical treatment at a U.S. Army hospital in Germany.
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The attack took place around 200 kilometres north of Niamey, near the border with Mali, where the terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active.
Asked whether the USA forces had adequate protection, including readily available medical evacuation, McKenzie said rapid evacuation is a primary concern when developing any US mission.
On Thursday, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said the number of US troops there has increased in recent years. Four Niger security forces were also killed. "Niger is an important partner of ours".
Islamist militants, including al-Qaeda fighters, operate in the region. John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff briefed the US President Donald Trump by telephone on the attack, when he was on his way from Las Vegas, where he visited the victims of the recent mass shooting. In a statement confirming the details of the attack, United States Africa Command explained why the U.S.is there. The countries have been pressing the global community to help funding and in equipping troops and ensuring their mobility and help with logistics, communications and protection in the field.
Mamane contributed to this story from Niamey, Niger.