Niger Ambush Investigation Complete, Families of Fallen to Be Briefed

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson  (U.S. Army photos)
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson (U.S. Army photos)

The families of the four troops killed in the Niger ambush last October will soon get individual, closed briefings on the findings of the investigation into the attack believed to have been carried out by an ISIS offshoot in Africa, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has signed off on his review of the Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation conducted by U.S. Africa Command.

"We are currently in the process of scheduling the next-of-kin notifications," Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, said.

At a Pentagon briefing, she gave no timeline on when the results of the investigation, said by Mattis to be thousands of pages long, would be released to the public.

Once the family briefings are completed and Congress is notified, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the AFRICOM commander, and Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, Waldhauser's chief of staff who led the Article 15-6 investigation, will give a full public briefing at the Pentagon, White said.

The ambush, last Oct. 4 near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger, has led to allegations that what was to have been a joint training patrol by U.S. and Nigerien troops with little risk turned into a poorly-planned raid to capture a terror suspect by a force that lacked backup and air cover.

The raid found only an empty camp, and the patrol was attacked as it left Tongo Tongo, resulting in the deaths of the four American troops from the Army's Third Special Forces Group, four Nigerien troops and a Nigerien interpreter.

In addition to the Article 15-6 investigation, the FBI has conducted its own review of the national security implications of the ambush that killed Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.

The body of Sgt. La David Johnson was not recovered until two days after the attack allegedly conducted by a group known as ISIS Greater Sahara forces.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported from Niamey, Niger, that Niger's military may have captured the suspected Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathizer who was the target of the failed raid by the joint patrol last October.

At the time, U.S. and Nigerien forces had been pursuing a militant who went by the name of Doundou Chefou and was suspected of being involved in the kidnapping of an American aid worker.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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