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Joseph Dunford

Top US general said families, Americans deserve answers on Niger

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Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford believes the American people and the fallen soldiers' families deserve answers about a deadly ambush in Niger.

Three weeks after the attack by presumed Islamic State forces, Gen. Dunford, said several matters must still be resolved. They include whether the U.S. had adequate intelligence and equipment for its operation, whether there was a planning failure and why it took so long to recover one the bodies.

Dunford said the four U.S. soldiers died after a battle that started on Oct. 4 in a “complex situation,” leading to a “difficult firefight.” At a Pentagon news conference, he tried to outline what the military knows.

On Oct. 3, a group of 12 American forces accompanied 30 Nigerien forces to an area about 5 miles north of the capital. When they tried to return the next day, they were ambushed by 50 enemy fighters traveling by vehicle, carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Within an hour of taking fire, the team requested support. Within another hour, a remote plane flew above. Later, French jets arrived and transported wounded Americans to safety. The bodies of three Americans killed in the fight were transported out, but Sgt. La David Johnson wasn’t recovered until Oct. 6.

Almost three weeks after the ambush in Niger members of Congress are demanding answers. Last week, Sen. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, even threatened a subpoena to accelerate the flow of information from the Trump administration.

Dunford defended the broader American mission in Niger. He said U.S. forces have been in the country intermittently for more than two decades. Currently, some 800 U.S. service members are supporting a French-led mission to defeat the Islamic State, al-Qaida and Boko Haram in West Africa.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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