Heart-wrenching new details are emerging about the deadly October 4 ambush in Niger that killed four American servicemen. Sgt. La David Johnson, Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright died during the unplanned mission to capture or kill a high-ranking ISIS target.
After nearly a month of speculation and minimal detail marred by an ongoing war of words between President Donald Trump and Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson over a condolence call the commander in chief made to Johnson’s widow, new details have emerged from an unnamed military official about the troubling circumstances leading to the attack and the incredible heroism displayed by U.S. forces in an effort to not leave anyone behind.
As ABC News reported, a team of 12 Americans and 30 Nigerien soldiers departed the village of Tongo Tongo in six to eight vehicles, including an American contingent of two pickup trucks equipped with machine guns and an unarmed Land Cruiser. According to the high-ranking official, they were ambushed by more than 50 ISIS-linked fighters, who expertly attacked from either side of the tree-lined road and appeared to be a well-trained in their use machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades.
While it seems as though the American and Nigerien forces initially made an attempt to flee the “kill zone,” they soon realized the unarmed Land Cruiser was nowhere to be found. Refusing to leave anyone behind, it is believed the American pick-up trucks turned back to search for the missing vehicle, with Sgt. Johnson providing cover by firing a machine gun out the back of one of the trucks.
As they took fire, Americans in a lead position got out of their vehicle to return fire, the official said. But as the fight intensified, the group of Americans and Nigeriens decided to get out of the “kill zone” and move forward approximately 200 yards.
The two U.S. pickup trucks, taking enemy fire as they progressed forward, suddenly realized the Land Cruiser was nowhere to be seen and were unable to make contact with the vehicle.
“One guy said, we’re not leaving these guys behind,” the official said.
Two of the Americans turned back on foot to search for the missing vehicle while others followed in the pickup truck as Sgt. La David Johnson, who was later killed, gave them cover by firing with the machine gun mounted on the back of one of the pickup trucks.
It was then that the separated Land Cruiser was hit by a mortar and then gunfire. Inside were Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright— all killed in the attack.
The battle was fierce as the American and Nigerien forces fought to keep from being overrun by waves of fighters. The Americans continued to fight from their vehicles and on foot. At some point, one of the U.S. pickup trucks was disabled.
“They were running,” the official said. “They were being chased and being fired upon.”
According to the official, Sgt. La David Johnson, whose body was not located until two days after the attack, became separated from the rest of the group, possibly because he was ejected from one of the vehicles as it bounced across the rough terrain.
Two hours after the first shots were fired and an hour after Americans called for assistance, French Mirage jets buzzed low over the battle space. No weapons were drawn, but the ISIS fighters ceased firing and began to retreat. French special forces, accompanied by one or two U.S. Army Green Berets, then arrived in French Puma helicopters to evacuate the wounded Americans.
While the prudence of the last-minute mission is still under question and it is uncertain whether the American and Nigerien forces were adequately equipped, it is clear that the bravery of Sgt. Johnson and the backup provided by the French military saved countless lives.
“The French saved our men,” the official said. “Yes, we lost four. But we would have lost everybody if it wasn’t for the French.”
(H/T: Daily Mail)