US Defence Secretary on Niger ambush


US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the military was looking into what changes, if any, should be made after an ambush in Niger saw four US soldiers killed.

The incident, which US officials suspect was carried out by a local Islamic State affiliate, has thrown a spotlight on the US counter-terrorism mission in the West African country.

Mattis, addressing the incident for the first time publicly, said the ambush took place in an area where “the enemy has not operated before” and that the patrol had been “hit hard.”

He said French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes and he did not believe there was any delay in evacuating the wounded and dead, but did not say how long it took to move them
“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance, you know, autopsy, you always find a lot out in them,” Mattis told reporters on board a military plane.
“We’re not complacent, we’re going to do better,” he added.

From initial accounts, the 40-strong patrol, which included about a dozen US troops, came under attack by militants in a dozen vehicles and on about 20 motorcycles.

At least four Nigeriens were also killed and, according to one Niger security source, militants seized four vehicles in the ambush.

A diplomat with knowledge of the incident said French officials were frustrated by the US troops’ actions, saying they acted on limited intelligence and without contingency plans in place.

US forces do not have a combat mission in Niger, but assistance to the Nigerien army includes intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in efforts to target violent extremist organisations.