View Full Version : Niger: a Sahel country bumping along (catch all)

Rex Brynen
12-16-2008, 04:36 PM
Moderator at work

I have merged two threads: Tuareg Insurgency in Northern Niger (2007-2009) and Niger Rebels Say They Kidnapped UN Envoy.

Some of the posts on NIger are found in a parallel thread on Mali:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=9254

Virtually everyone who has worked foreign affairs in defence issues in Ottawa knows Bob—he was/is an outstanding diplomat (including Canadian ambassador to the UNSC) and senior official at National Defence. I hope he's OK, and released quickly.

As Allan Thompson reports in his excellent profile (http://www.thestar.com/Article/554395), "The only consolation, one friend said last night, is that if anyone could talk himself out of a tight spot, it would be Fowler."

Niger Rebels Say They Kidnapped U.N. Envoy (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/world/africa/17niger.html?ref=world)

Published: December 16, 2008

DAKAR, Senegal — A splinter faction of an insurgent group of nomadic tribesmen fighting in northern Niger claimed on Tuesday that it had abducted a Canadian diplomat serving as the United Nations envoy to the country.

The diplomat, Robert Fowler, was first reported missing on Monday, according to the United Nations, when the vehicle in which he was traveling was found abandoned on the outskirts of Niger’s capital, Niamey. Mr. Fowler was with his aide, Louis Guay, and their driver, the United Nations said. The car’s engine was still running, and there were no signs of a struggle, officials said.

Also: Confusion over missing envoy (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/554559), Tororonto Star, 16 December 2008.

Robert Fowler no stranger to conflict zones (http://www.thestar.com/Article/554395), Toronto Star, 16 December 2008.

Unrest in the Sahara (http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/unrestsahara/), al-Jazeera English (useful background).

Rex Brynen
12-17-2008, 05:55 PM
Few clues surrounding diplomats’ disappearance in Niger (http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=1082931)
Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UNITED NATIONS -- Suspects holding veteran Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler and his aide were feared Tuesday to be scanning world reports about the pair to assess how "valuable" they might be.

One insider speculated the kidnappers -- depending on their identity and their goals -- may feel they have hit a "jackpot" given some of the publicly available accounts of Fowler's career.

Fowler is a former deputy minister in the Defence Department and was Canada's longest serving ambassador to the UN.

Rex Brynen
12-24-2008, 02:13 AM
UN working to find Niger envoy (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7798571.stm)

BBC News, 24 December 2008

The UN says it is working with Canada, as well as Niger and others in West Africa to help secure the release of a kidnapped UN special envoy to Niger.

A spokeswoman said the UN was pursuing all appropriate channels to secure the safe return of former Canadian ambassador to the UN, Robert Fowler.

The UN said he went missing in Niger on 15 December while on official business.

Rex Brynen
01-24-2009, 02:52 PM
Sadly, still no news on Bob.

Abducted without a trace (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090123.wfowler0123/BNStory/International/home)

Globe and Mail Update
January 24, 2009 at 1:04 AM EST

Mr. Fowler, 64, was one of Ottawa's most powerful bureaucrats before his retirement. He had served as an ambassador to the United Nations, a deputy minister of defence, a top adviser to a string of prime ministers and a veteran of war zones from Rwanda to Darfur. Yet this time he may have ventured a step too far.

The tale of the vanished Canadians has all the elements of a Graham Greene thriller: the secretive diplomats who concealed their true mission, their mysterious disappearance in an obscure African country, the intricate games of the rebels and the government and the foreign investigators who are struggling to understand it all.

But if this is a Graham Greene mystery, it has a 21st-century twist: The Islamic radicals with ties to al-Qaeda who investigators believe may now be holding the diplomats. The radicals have emerged as a growing power in North Africa and now seem to be expanding into countries such as Mali and Niger — a vast new territory for their ambitions.

Rex Brynen
02-09-2009, 01:41 PM
Video suggests diplomats in clutches of al-Qaeda (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090209.wfowler09/BNStory/International/home)

From Monday's Globe and Mail
February 9, 2009 at 4:13 AM EST

JOHANNESBURG — One of the kidnapped Canadians seems exhausted. The other is still clutching his briefcase. Standing behind them are armed men, posing for the camera - the trademark of the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

This is the latest description of a videotape that apparently shows the disturbing fate of Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, the two Canadian diplomats who were kidnapped in December in the West African nation of Niger.


The video adds further evidence to the theory of al-Qaeda involvement in the kidnapping. The leading theory among the investigators - including Canadian, American and United Nations security specialists - is that the two Canadian diplomats are being held by a cell of al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa, which is already suspected of masterminding a series of similar kidnappings of Western tourists in Mali, Algeria and Tunisia.

Rex Brynen
02-20-2009, 05:35 PM
Al-Qaida N. Africa claims 6 hostages (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/02/19/Al-Qaida_N_Africa_claims_6_hostages/UPI-59611235066594/)

UPI, Published: Feb. 19, 2009 at 1:03 PM

NIAMEY, Niger, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Al-Qaida's North Africa branch claims it is holding hostage a Canadian U.N. peace envoy, his aide and four tourists who were kidnapped in the Sahara.

A spokesman for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian group that claims to have joined Osama bin Laden's terror network in 2006 but some say has simply adopted the name, threatened "to deal with the six kidnapped according to Islamic Shariah law," an audio recording played on pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera said.

Rex Brynen
09-08-2009, 10:38 PM
I never did update this thread.

Bob Fowler was, happily, freed in June (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/article1012479.ece). As has subsequently been reported in the press, the JTF2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joint_Task_Force_2) guys were considering a rescue operation (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/article1077446.ece) if they had received a more accurate fix on AQIM's whereabouts.

In his most recent comments to the CBC, Bob has suggested that his itinerary was leaked to AQIM by a source within the government of Niger or the UN (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/betrayal-led-to-kidnapping-fowler-says/article1279564/).

Rex Brynen
10-11-2009, 02:08 AM
The secret Mali deal to release two Canadians (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-secret-mali-deal-to-release-two-canadians/article1319983/)

Four al-Qaeda members were freed from prison in exchange for diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay

Geoffrey York
Bamako, Mali — From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 1:45PM EDT
Last updated on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009 8:45PM EDT

Four terrorists, including a bomb-maker, were released from prison in the African nation of Mali in exchange for the freedom this year of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, high-ranking government sources in Mali have confirmed.

The released prisoners were members of al-Qaeda’s increasingly powerful branch in the Sahara region of northern and western Africa. Two of them had been arrested in the northern Mali desert town of Gao last year after an accidental explosion while they were manufacturing a bomb, the sources say.

It was widely suspected that there was much more to the release than was initially reported. As you'll see from the full report, the UK government was said to be quite unhappy with Canada's actions in this case (as they were also trying to secure the release of a hostage), as were the Algerians (the primary target of AQIM attacks).

10-11-2009, 12:21 PM

Thanks for the update and having read the article cited I am sure several governments were disappointed. The decision by Mali was influenced by a desire to keep Canada "sweet". I wonder how they will explain this story, or better just ignore it?

I'd missed that one prisoner's release sought was Abu Qutada, who is in a UK jail after breaching his immigration bail. Were the kidnappers following a direction from AQ "core" or from a more local AQIM?


Rex Brynen
10-12-2009, 05:28 PM
Globe Special Investigation
The shadowy negotiator who freed Fowler and Guay (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-shadowy-negotiator-who-freed-fowler-and-guay/article1320522/)

He’s Mali’s go-to man for haggling with terrorists and he brokered the deal that set two Canadians free

Geoffrey York
Bamako, Mali — From Monday's Globe and Mail
Published on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 10:22PM EDT
Last updated on Monday, Oct. 12, 2009 8:25AM EDT

When the kidnappers freed Robert Fowler and Louis Guay after a gruelling 130 days of captivity this spring, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his gratitude to a long list of people: presidents, diplomats, allies, even the United Nations.

But he omitted any mention of the most important man of all: the mysterious negotiator from the wilds of the Sahara who brokered the deal that bought the freedom of the Canadian hostages from their al-Qaeda abductors.

It was a crucial omission, and it revealed the distrust and controversy that still swirls around the shadowy negotiator. Did he walk away with some of the money himself? Is he playing both sides? Is he a little too close to the terrorists with whom he bargains?

The questions are unanswered. But every insider admits that the negotiator, Baba Ould Sheik, was the essential man for the job. Since his first hostage deal in 2003, he has been the region's go-to man, the wheeler-dealer with the connections and toughness to haggle with heavily armed terrorists in the sand dunes of the Sahara.

“ I don't regret that I fought for Fowler's liberation, but I'm not happy with Canada. ”
— Baba Ould Sheik

Until now, he has never spoken publicly of his pivotal role in freeing Mr. Fowler and Mr. Guay. He is a man who has always preferred the shadows. But now, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, he describes how he brokered the deal, how he communicated with to the terrorists, how he shared his carpet in the desert with Mr. Fowler, and how he drove through a sandstorm to get the Canadians back to safety.

He also says that he was never thanked by Canada for his three months of work to free the Canadians, and was never compensated for his substantial expenses. Yet he acknowledges that even his own colleagues assume that he was paid – and are accusing him of failing to share the money.


12-22-2009, 05:33 PM
MICROCON, 21 Dec 09: Circumstantial Alliances and Loose Loyalties in Rebellion Making: The Case of Tuareg Insurgency in Northern Niger (2007-2009) (http://www.microconflict.eu/publications/RWP20_YG.pdf)

The goal of this paper is to specify the nature of the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (MNJ) (http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/) as a non-state armed organisation and to make sense of its shaky existence since its inception, almost three years ago, with a particular focus on the period that made the MNJ a serious political and military opponent to the government. Our argument is that circumstantial alliances and percolation of grievances provoked by local micro-political dynamics and long-standing disenfranchisement of some sections of the Tuareg youth permitted the movement to take off as a credible rebel group. Ultimately, we want to verify if existing analytical tools made available by the theoretical literature on non-state armed groups are adequate to make sense of the MNJ’s organisational trajectory, particularly considering Jeremy Weinstein’s seminal book “Inside Rebellion” (http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Rebellion-Insurgent-Cambridge-Comparative/dp/0521677971) (Weinstein, 2006). By putting too much emphasis on “initial conditions”, Weinstein’s model, we argue, fails to properly acknowledge the micro-social dynamics that shape armed groups and their erratic trajectory, and we stress the need to investigate what armed organizations are sociologically made of rather than bluntly postulating their existence.

11-10-2011, 04:40 PM
Cross refer for some background on today's post to the thread 'Gaddafi's sub-Saharan mercenaries':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=12565

The BBC News reports:
Fighters of the ousted Libyan regime, ethnic Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants operate in the remote region. Some Tuaregs fought on the side of the late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi during this year's conflict in Libya.,,and "guided by Malian Tuaregs".


03-26-2012, 08:47 AM
As attention is focussed on Mali along comes the BBC with this report:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17506421

For once governance may not be a problem:
Niger has suddenly emerged, after a coup in 2010, as a welcome and unexpected exception in a rough neighbourhood. The new, democratic government was quick to detect the first signs that this year's food crisis would be particularly severe.

I am always wary of reading this:
it is shocking to note the complete absence of men

Death, emigration to work and more can account for this. So can the presence of the media and having gone to fight - shades of Somalia too.

Niger has its own Tuareg's (as reported in previous Posts).

03-26-2012, 08:50 AM
Many of their men are in Nigeria, seeking better opportunities and sending money back home. I can attest to that - my gate man and my brother's former gate man are both from Niger.

04-07-2012, 10:09 AM
A BBC report a month old which I missed, which covers several factors, but this is different:
....former rebels have been integrated into government - the new prime minister appointed in April 2011 is a Tuareg, as are most of the local officials in Agadez.


08-14-2013, 07:58 PM
A backgrounder 'Letter from Niamey' by Andrew Lebovich, who was in country in May 2013, which starts with:
The shifting focus on Niger as a Western partner for counter-terrorism should not blind the European Union, France, and the United States to the West African nation's governance and reform deficits. Internal militant unrest, trafficking and other criminal enterprises, and weak, corrupt rule all threaten Niger’s tenuous stability.

He ends:
In Mali, systemic domestic problems from government corruption to intercommunal rivalries among the military and the ranks of armed rebels fractured its political structure and grievously weakened the state more than terrorist attacks could. In Niger, it appears that similar warning signs are being ignored. For the United States, France, and other European powers, stabilizing Niger’s government and maintaining its security cooperation trumps everything else. Although the onus is on Niger’s government to reform itself, outside powers must make sure such steps are implemented as promised. Western governments set on hunting down Islamist militants cannot ignore impending threats to Niger’s stability that fall outside their narrow focus on counterterrorism.


04-13-2017, 12:42 PM
The last post was in August 2013 and events around Niger have changed somewhat, notably in Nigeria. So this commentary from RUSI is welcome; which starts with:
The country faces a problematic security environment and must urgently address social, economic and governance challenges. Niger sits at the crossroads of a huge area where state actors have limited control. The region is home to a toxic blend (https://www.csis.org/analysis/militancy-and-arc-instability) of insurgencies, ethnic militias, drug traffickers, smugglers and violent extremist groups. The upper Sahel is nevertheless far from being ungoverned (https://matsutas.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/mali-the-fallacy-of-ungoverned-spaces-by-yvan-guichaoua/). There are complex layers of political economic and geopolitical forces at play: socio-ethnic kinship; migration; and informal trade in particular create powerful cross-border links.Link:https://rusi.org/commentary/niger-and-fight-against-violent-extremism-sahel


The map is from:By OCHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32649461 (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/By OCHA, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32649461)

10-05-2017, 12:49 PM
Initial stand-alone from the Niger thread for maximum visibility.

(CNN)Three Green Berets were killed and two others were wounded in southwest Niger near the Mali-Niger border when a joint US-Nigerien patrol was attacked Wednesday, officials told CNN.
Two administration officials said the wounded US troops had been evacuated to the capital, Niamey, and would soon be moved to Germany. They were described by the officials as being in a "stable condition." The bodies of the three killed also were evacuated.

10-05-2017, 01:01 PM
A curious incident near the Mali border and the NYT report suggests:
American forces were rushing to the scene of the ambush, presumably to evacuate American and Nigerien casualties, and possibly to hunt down the attackers.

10-06-2017, 05:28 PM
More background on the Niger mission:http://taskandpurpose.com/niger-army-special-forces-war/?

Two passages of note IMHO:
Instead, Obama justified the intervention based on the 1973 War Powers Resolution that requires frequent updates to Congress on efforts in Niger, his most recent of which, in December 2016, indicated the United States had 575 military personnel in the country and a second drone base — although U.S. forces there were technically not authorized to use lethal force.A President Trump update:
In a June 2017 letter to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, President Donald Trump mentioned there are 645 military personnel in Niger “to provide a wide variety of support to African partners conducting counterterrorism operations in the region.”

10-07-2017, 04:24 AM
A U.S. soldier who was missing after an ambush by militants in Niger has been found dead, according to defense officials.
The attack killed three U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group and four soldiers from Niger, one of whom was serving as an interpreter. Two other American soldiers were wounded and evacuated to Landstuhl.

A senior U.S. official said the missing soldier did activate his military beacon and the U.S. military was able to track him for a time before the signal faded.
One official said a 12-man team of U.S. soldiers from the Army's 3rd Special Forces Group was operating with approximately 30 Forces Armees Nigeriennes (FAN) on a train and advise mission near Tongo Tongo, Niger, just miles from the Mali border. Militants, both Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and ISIS, have been using a nearby route to travel back and forth into Mali and back to a base camp in Niger and traffic in black market merchandise, the official said. The partner forces were working to disrupt the so-called rat line and interdict the militants.


10-07-2017, 04:45 AM
The Pentagon has identified the three Army Green Berets killed in action Wednesday night in Niger.
Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Dustin Wright, 29, of Lyons,#Ga., were killed after their patrol came under attack by Mali-based militants.
The three were assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The U.S. special forces were on a joint patrol with Nigerien soldiers near Mali’s border when they “fell into an ambush set by terrorist elements aboard a dozen vehicles and about twenty motorcycles," Niger's army chief of staff said in a statement.
Four Nigerien soldiers were also killed, eight were wounded and two U.S. soldiers were wounded “after intense fighting, during which elements of the joint force showed exemplary courage,” according to the statement.


10-14-2017, 10:34 AM
A CNN report with some more details and more questions:
Officials said the 12 man Green Beret-led team had just completed a meeting with local leaders and were walking back to their unarmored pick-up trucks when the unexpected ambush resulted in a firefight that lasted 30 minutes.
(Later) .....the unit in Niger "had actually done 29 patrols without contact over the previous six months," Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told reporters.

The film clip has a sentence akin to Niger has not given the USA permission to launch air strikes.

10-15-2017, 10:05 AM
Jason Burke, in The Observer, is an accomplished journalist on terrorism; his article helps to provide the context and some pointers to why the four soldiers died in:
That there are conflicting accounts of the clash is not surprising. It occurred in an environment where hard fact is rare, and rumours swirl as fiercely as the dust storms that sweep the scrub and desert.Was this man the target?
Al-Sahraoui’s background and allegiance is evidence of the extremely fractured nature of the conflict across the swath of northern Africa known as the Sahel. The 40-year-old is thought to have grown up in refugee camps in the south of Algeria, where he was committed to the nationalist cause of the Western Sahara. Little is known about how he became interested in Islamist extremism.....Did the Niger-SOF team use their initiative?
Any soldier knows that if you give guys on the ground more independence, then they will be that much more aggressive and will take more risks.Link:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/15/sahel-niger-us-special-forces-islamists

I have changed the thread's title to four SOF dead, after the fourth soldier was found. RIP.

SWJ Blog
10-20-2017, 07:51 AM
Death of U.S. Soldiers in Niger Sparks FBI Probe, Criticism (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/death-of-us-soldiers-in-niger-sparks-fbi-probe-criticism)

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/death-of-us-soldiers-in-niger-sparks-fbi-probe-criticism) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).

10-20-2017, 08:01 AM
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, troubled by a lack of information two weeks after an ambush on a special operations patrol in Niger left four U.S. soldiers dead, is demanding a timeline of what is known about the attack, as a team of investigators sent to West Africa begins its work.

The growing list of unanswered questions and inability to construct a precise account of the Oct. 4 incident have exacerbated a public relations nightmare for the White House, which is embroiled in controversy over President Trump’s belated and seemingly clumsy response this week to console grieving military families.

“We need to find out what happened and why,” White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, whose son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, told reporters at the White House on Thursday.


10-20-2017, 08:03 AM
SWJ Blog Death of U.S. Soldiers in Niger Sparks FBI Probe, Criticism

10-20-2017, 07:36 PM
what's up with the picture of the 4 dead service persons? Two have Green Berets? One has no beret? One has a maroon beret (of the 82nd Airborne)but has an SF flash and SF emblem?

It was originally reported they were all Green Berets. So what's up?

10-20-2017, 09:36 PM
Thanks to a "lurker" for the pointer to an exchange on Twitter between this lady as @texasinafrica (in a moment her bio) and others:
Laura Seay is an assistant professor of government at Colby College, where she teaches African politics. Her research focuses on advocacy groups and U.S. policy in Africa.

Just found her article in 'Slate', which is of value, especially if you look at the issues from a US political scene perspective.

She refers to:
American forces have been in Niger since 2012. Currently, there are about 800. Their primary mission is to advise and assist Niger’s armed forces in their fight against terrorist groups that attack their citizens.

So with the IISS Military Balance to hand, Niger has an army of 5,200 (with mainly French kit) and an air force with 100 (with fifteen aircraft and seven helicopters). So one US soldier for just over every six Niger soldiers. I exclude any wider, regional role and "teeth to tail" ratio.

It concludes with:
Niger is unfamiliar to most Americans, and there’s a need for a long-overdue debate about why American forces are there and in other places around the world in the borderless and seemingly endless “Global War on Terror.” Are the threats to the United States from groups like ISGS really significant enough to spend billions of dollars deploying troops to fight them? Should lives be risked and lost in service of murky goals that often seem tangential to U.S. interests? These are questions worth asking.

Bill Moore
10-20-2017, 11:39 PM
what's up with the picture of the 4 dead service persons? Two have Green Berets? One has no beret? One has a maroon beret (of the 82nd Airborne)but has an SF flash and SF emblem?

It was originally reported they were all Green Berets. So what's up?


I only know what I read in the media, but it isn't unusual for the media to report non-SF qualified personnel killed in action while serving in a Special Forces Unit as Green Berets. I believe all these soldiers were assigned to a SF unit, and it isn't uncommon for our support soldiers to embed in an ODA go on missions with them. I certainly welcomed their participation when they went out with us, because they bring critical skills and added security.

What is important for Americans to know is they shared the same risks as the Green Berets while serving their nation, and we lost four brothers regardless of the color of their beret.

SWJ Blog
10-21-2017, 04:23 AM
Conflicting Accounts in Niger Ambush Are Subject of Pentagon Investigation (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/conflicting-accounts-in-niger-ambush-are-subject-of-pentagon-investigation)

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/conflicting-accounts-in-niger-ambush-are-subject-of-pentagon-investigation) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).

SWJ Blog
10-21-2017, 07:11 PM
New Details Emerge About Attack That Killed U.S. Soldiers in Niger (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/new-details-emerge-about-attack-that-killed-us-soldiers-in-niger)

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/new-details-emerge-about-attack-that-killed-us-soldiers-in-niger) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).

10-21-2017, 09:01 PM
WASHINGTON — A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger says the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a "massive intelligence failure."
The Pentagon has said that 40 to 50 militants ambushed a 12-man U.S. force in Niger on Oct. 4, killing four and wounding two. The U.S. patrol was seen as routine and had been carried out nearly 30 times in the six months before the attack, the Pentagon has reported.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the House and Senate armed services committees have questions about the scope of the U.S. mission in Niger, and whether the Pentagon is properly supporting the troops on the ground there.

10-21-2017, 09:07 PM
Note that the local African wire services have a different take on this incident.

interview from 05OCT2017

A deadly ambush near the Niger-Mali border on 4 October marked the unprecedented killing of American and Nigerien forces in the region. In this Q&A, Deputy West Africa Project Director Jean-Herv Jezequel and Research Assistant Hamza Cherbib say that jihadist violence cannot be divorced from deeper inter-communal tensions related to local competition over resources and illicit economic activity.


Note the differences in the description of Friendly Forces here, vs my previous post.

What happened and where?
According to U.S. and Nigerien security sources, on 4 October 2017 a mixed patrol of U.S. and Nigerien special forces was ambushed near Tongo Tongo, a village located in the Tillabery region (about 120km north of the capital, Niamey), a few kilometres from the border with Mali. The precise death toll is still uncertain but at least five Nigerien and three U.S. soldiers were killed. Several others are wounded or missing, and Nigerien sources say the patrol's vehicles were looted or destroyed.
The patrol may have been attacked by jihadists operating in the region, but there was no early claim of responsibility and what happened may only become clear over time. U.S. troops are supporting Nigerien armed forces fighting jihadists in at least two locations in the country, Aguelal and Diffa. The U.S. also is present elsewhere in Niger (and the region): it is establishing a drone and airbase near Agadez (northern Niger) and its forces are present at Niamey airport where they share space with French and Nigerien forces.
This is not the first attack against security forces in the area. Indeed, Nigerien forces have suffered repeated attacks there since early 2017, including against the special counter-terrorism unit whose men are trained by the U.S. But this is the first attack to have claimed the lives of U.S. soldiers.

What is known about jihadist groups in the area?
In recent months, several attacks targeting security forces near the Mali-Niger border have been claimed by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), the Islamic State's local branch led by Abou Walid Al Sahraoui. This includes a raid on the Koutoukale prison in October 2016 that was fended off by Nigerien security forces.
Another recent attack was claimed by the Jamaat Nosrat al-Islam wal-Mouslimin (JNIM, the "Group for the support of Islam and the Muslims"), a jihadist coalition of militant groups with a history of cooperation that was established in March 2017. JNIM's leader, Iyad Ag Ghali, a Malian Tuareg, declared his allegiance to al-Qaeda and other top leaders of the group have well established al-Qaeda ties.

Background readings: http://allafrica.com/view/group/main/main/id/00053764.html

Wherethehellisthisplacemap http://www.rain4sahara.org/our-work/where-we-work/tillaberi

10-21-2017, 09:43 PM
Got irritated at the lack of orienting graphics and such, whistled up the appropriate 1;500,000 maps.

Nimay @ Lat 13 ° 30' / Long 2 °

Teguey just east of Lat 14 ° 30' / Long 0 ° 30'


A longer-than-expected meeting with local tribal leaders in Niger may have given militants critical extra minutes to prep the ambush attack that left four American troops dead earlier this month, two U.S. officials told Fox News on Friday.

A dozen U.S. Army soldiers, mostly Green Berets, along with 30 Nigeriens, had traveled 125 miles north from their base at Niger’s capital, Niamey, in unarmored trucks on a routine mission and to meet with local village elders in Tonga Tonga, near the border with Mali.

After the meeting with the village elders ended, the U.S.-led patrol was ambushed by roughly 50 militants.

French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes, however, they did not fire because they couldn't positively identify who was who on the ground.

A senior defense official told Fox News the U.S. troops were fired on once they were already in their vehicles. The vehicles then scrambled to “get off the X” -- escaping the ambush site using evasive driving maneuvers -- and a gunfight ensued.


10-22-2017, 09:56 AM
Amidst the deluge of reporting now, very little by people familiar with Niger, this passage is important:
Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rudy Atallah, the man Trump nearly hired as his National Security Council's’ senior director for Africa, said that Niger is a difficult posting for U.S. service members due to the lack of communication between their camps, the Nigerien military, and the civilians they are purportedly there to help protect. “We don’t have very good intelligence information on what the threat looks like or how it’s growing and [U.S. troops] don’t have the support of local population,” Atallah said. “Our folks don’t spend a lot of time gripping and grinning with the locals, and the locals don’t know what our guys are doing.”

You'd think by now AFRICOM deployed enough staff with the right language skills, after all there has been a presence in Niger since the early 2000's, with troop rotations since 2011.

Another report referred to SAR being provided by contractors.

10-22-2017, 11:40 AM
Plot Twist, or why the first part of the Intel guy's briefing on weather is important.

Niger Floods Leaves Tens of Thousands Homeless
Widespread flooding has killed at least 56 people since the rainy season began in June, and left over 185,000 homeless, according to the interior ministry.

10-24-2017, 08:20 AM
Some curious information in this NYT report:
American troops who came under fire in Niger...might have waited more than an hour before calling for help....one reason might be that they thought they could fight back against the Islamic State-affiliated militants who attacked them.

Though helicopters did not arrive until an hour after the troops called for help, a drone arrived overhead in minutes, General Dunford said, though he would not say whether it was armed.

SWJ Blog
10-25-2017, 02:21 AM
Administration Sees No Change in Rules or Mission of U.S. Troops in Niger (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/administration-sees-no-change-in-rules-or-mission-of-us-troops-in-niger)

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/administration-sees-no-change-in-rules-or-mission-of-us-troops-in-niger) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).

10-25-2017, 07:23 AM
Some curious information

By 'curious', you mean more and more it's sounding like a complete Charlie Foxtrot?

Sources for this ABC report basically says the same thing.

What was started as a reconnaissance mission to meet with local leaders turned into a kill-or-capture mission aimed at a high-value target, according to both sources.
“They should have been up and back in a day. Because they were up there so f------ long on a mission that morphed, they were spotted, surveilled and ultimately hit,” the official said.
Their pre-mission threat assessment never considered the possibility of 50 to 60 enemy combatants attacking them, according to the official.
On their way back, the team received a call from the base back in Niamey, asking them to turn around and kill or capture a high-value target who is a known al Qaeda and ISIS operative, according to two senior officials.
The team arrived at the target location in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, but found nothing. They burned the remnants of the abandoned campsite and headed back south as the sun came up, stopping back through a nearby village called Tongo Tongo around 8:30 AM.
There, the Nigerien force requested they stop to eat, while U.S. soldiers met with a village elder, who was “obviously and deliberately trying to stall them,” according to the official.
“He was definitely stalling as long as he could to keep us there,” the survivor said, saying he had an entourage, showed the unit a child with an illness, and even grabbed a goat he wanted to prepare for them.

10-25-2017, 02:13 PM
By 'curious', you mean more and more it's sounding like a complete Charlie Foxtrot?

From my "armchair" I would not reach such a conclusion.

Sadly the deaths have aroused far greater political and media attention to Niger and AFRICOM's activity.

The Soufan Report's latest comment ends with:
The pace of joint operations in Africa involving U.S. personnel will likely increase in the foreseeable future, as the conditions that help fuel terrorist and insurgent groups continue to worsen.Link:http://www.soufangroup.com/tsc-intelbrief-the-ambush-in-niger/

There is an older thread on Niger, with mainly historical posts:Niger: a Sahel country bumping along (catch all)

10-26-2017, 10:17 AM
Additional details for those with WaPo access.

From my "armchair" I would not reach such a conclusion.

Seriously? From what we can both read, it sounds far from a sunny day in paradise.

As previously reported, Coalition forces have been in western Niger for awhile and suffered no causalities while engaging ISIS&friends.

This is the sequence of high points;

1) Simple in-and-out mission gets an additional tasker, which means loitering in a bad neighborhood. The "three hour tour" song from Gilligan's Island should have started playing about then.

2) Reinforcing element doesn't show up for the extended mission, Lord knows why.

3) Local headman obviously stalling the group.

4) Complex double-tap ambush, implication is that they were up against competent opponents. See Threat Assessment, above - contradiction there.

5) Contact report sounds like it took an hour??to get out after first shot. Perhaps the primary comms were eliminated in the first RPG volley, but that's bad. Very bad.

6) French air assets hauled ass to provide cover, but targets not clearly marked. There's SOPs for signaling that a danger close strike would be appreciated.

Not pointing fingers but the overall situation sounds exactly like a Charlie Foxtrot (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Charlie_Foxtrot)*, with four US and five Nigerian KIA.

* Previous example of a Charlie Foxtrot

10-28-2017, 09:08 PM
Andrew Lebovich, a regional SME who has actually been there, has a column in FP. It ends with:
And while the threat to international interests in the region is real, it is these local communities whose lives are affected the most by these groups and by government responses — and also the local communities that will be most able to constrain them.
There is much we still do not know about what happened near Tongo Tongo on Oct. 4. But instead of looking at Niger as just another outpost of the global war on terror, our attention should be on the local and regional environments where these groups operate — and where the brunt of any increased military action will be felt the most.Link:http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/27/the-real-reason-u-s-troops-are-in-niger/

11-06-2017, 01:50 AM
The US special forces detachment ambushed in the Niger last month fought alone for hours after the local Nigerien forces they were accompanying fled in the first minutes of the engagement, retired and serving special forces officers with knowledge of events have said.
The trapped soldiers also made repeated efforts to convince French warplanes sent from neighbouring Mali to engage the enemy, attempting to “talk in” the pilots who refused to attack due to poor weather, rough terrain and an inability to differentiate friend from foe, the officers said.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/04/special-forces-unit-ambushed-in-niger-desperately-called-for-help-sources-say

12-08-2017, 09:18 PM
Hat tip to WoTR for their article, authored by a recent US SOF commander for the region and his key question:
Where exactly does the United States need to project power abroad to prevent strategic surprise?Later he provides a partial answer:
America does not need special operators lurking in every shadowy corner of the globe but good strategy relies on contextual and geographic awareness.Link:https://warontherocks.com/2017/12/playing-zone-defense-niger-risk-vs-reward-remote-operations/

On my second reading this sounds similar to the Imperial era debate over how to safeguard India's northwest frontier, notably how 'forward' that defence should be.

12-10-2017, 05:31 AM
Caveat: source is Buzzfeed

Sources told BuzzFeed News that the deaths at the village of Tongo Tongo could have been avoided if the mission was better planned and that it is not known whether the calls were made by the soldiers or their commanders back at the base.
BuzzFeed said that it talked to a Nigerian general, a pair of senior military officials and an official from Nigeria's anti-terror unit for its report.

The soldiers had entered a hotbed of militants, which was considered to be "red zone" that had been labeled out of bounds by the U.S., BuzzFeed noted, saying the soldiers lacked sufficient evidence at the time of the operation in which a series of "negligent" errors were made.
There had been 46 militant attacks in the area over the past year, however, the U.S. soldiers traveled in unarmored pickup trucks and were not heavily armed when they were ambushed by the militants outside of Tongo Tongo.


Full article here

“Socafrica has, in recent years, become increasingly secretive, unaccountable, clientelistic, and — as recent episodes suggest — reckless. Odds are they didn't have the granularity of intel to offset the risk of such a mission,” said Matthew Page, a former Africa specialist with the State Department’s intelligence arm. “I think the bigger issue at stake here is the degree to which Special Forces Africa is increasingly seen by US diplomats and defense officials as a ‘rogue element’ that is pushing the envelope on its missions and activities in the Sahel, and elsewhere in Africa, without explicit buy-in from US policymakers, diplomats, or even senior military commanders.”

The manner in which the US soldiers’ corpses were found pointed to a plan to capture at least some of them alive. “The soldiers were found naked because the militants took everything they could — military uniforms, weapons, comms equipment,” the Nigerien general told BuzzFeed News, contradicting US officials who have publicly said there were no indications troops fell into enemy hands. “They wanted to cart them away [alive] so that people wouldn’t know if they were dead or alive as hostages. It would have been a negotiating tactic.” That plan was likely scuppered when the arrival of French jets forced the militants to flee.

12-10-2017, 05:42 AM
NIAMEY, Niger – The body of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four U.S. soldiers killed in an ambush by Islamist militants in Niger last month, was found with his arms tied and a gaping wound at the back of his head, according to two villagers, suggesting that he may have been captured and then executed.
Adamou Boubacar, a 23-year-old farmer and trader, said some children tending cattle found the remains of the soldier Oct. 6, two days after the attack outside the remote Niger village of Tongo Tongo, which also left five Nigerien soldiers dead. The kids notified him.
When Boubacar went to the location, a bushy area roughly a mile from the ambush site, he saw Johnson’s body lying face down, he said. The back of his head had been smashed by something, possibly a bullet, said Boubacar. The soldier’s wrists were bound with rope, he said, raising the possibility that the militants – whom the Pentagon suspects were affiliated with the Islamic State – seized Johnson during the firefight and held him captive.

12-18-2017, 07:34 PM
More 'anonymous sources'.

A military probe concluded that Johnson wasn't captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin says.
The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was hit as many as 18 times and killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) offshoot, according to U.S. officials familiar with the findings. The Oct. 4 ambush took place about 120 miles north of Niamey, the African nation's capital. Johnson's body was recovered two days later.
U.S. officials familiar with the findings spoke on condition of anonymity to describe details of an investigation that has not been finalized or publicly released.


01-12-2018, 02:54 PM
Posts 18 onwards were in a separate thread on the deaths of four US SOF, which had 7k views and has now been merged to here.

01-12-2018, 02:59 PM
Previously unheard of development in northern Niger and very relevant as the last paragraph citing a local leader who says:
"I hope this continues forever, because it brings peace...All of these people do not have work.They can't make money any other way.Link:https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/9knzmv/nigers-gold-rush-has-turned-bandits-into-barons

Note the reporter accompanied a Nigerien National Guard patrol, not the army or police, to the region.

01-26-2018, 02:57 AM
Separate posting for maximum exposure.

These photos need to be seen, absorbed and not flushed down the Memory Hole.

EDIT: This is the reality of what happens when we send our troops into harm’s way. People need to see this. Too many of you are content with sweeping our fallen heroes under the rug and then being satisfied with Hollywood’s glamorous depiction of the skewed facts when they release a cheesey movie in the future. This is what American’s need to see, so they know what’s at stake. This is the reality of combat and the reason this site exists. If I had been killed in combat, I would want my last minutes shared with the world… not a series of Pentagon-released talking points on a public relations cue card. There is a very real possibility that these men were abandoned on the battlefield. “Never leave a fallen comrade….” Does that ring any bells? We may actually find out what happened to our brothers over there, so we can hold those accountable, but there are many of you that would rather be fed bull*^&% so you don’t have to acknowledge the grim reality.

02-10-2018, 01:07 PM
Try this WoTR article which is a gem on the often confusing and deteriorating situation. Here is a taster:
Though some armed groups have adopted jihadist ideologies, the proliferation of these groups remains an intensely local phenomenon. The central cause of conflict in most cases is the behavior of state actors, not the spontaneous appearance of foreign jihadists.Link:https://warontherocks.com/2018/02/the-destabilizing-dangers-of-american-counterterrorism-in-the-sahel/

02-10-2018, 05:39 PM
Inquiry of Soldiers’ Deaths Urges Curtailing West Africa Missions

WASHINGTON — A draft military investigation into the deadly ambush of American soldiers in Niger in October calls for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa, and to strip commanders in the field of some authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols.
While United States troops will continue accompanying local forces on military patrols across West Africa and the continent’s Sahel region, the missions will be vetted more rigorously than they have been over the past year, according to two military officials with knowledge of the findings who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been released.

02-18-2018, 03:29 PM
By 'curious', you mean more and more it's sounding like a complete Charlie Foxtrot?


...soldiers who survived the ambush and villagers who witnessed it point to a series of intelligence failures and strategic miscalculations that left the American soldiers far from base, in hostile territory longer than planned, with no backup or air support, on a mission they had not expected to perform.


02-18-2018, 03:45 PM
Some here I expect will dismiss this NYT report, so here are two comments via Twitter that might persuade you. Professor Bruce Hoffman:
Superb account of the micro (tragically personal) and macro (open ended strategic) contours of our ongoing war on terrorism...

Professor Daniel Byman:
I can’t recommend enough

03-20-2018, 05:32 AM
WASHINGTON — The leader of an ill-fated team of American soldiers in Niger last fall warned before the mission that his troops did not have the equipment or intelligence necessary to carry out a kill-or-capture raid against a local militant, according to preliminary findings of a continuing Defense Department investigation.

The preliminary findings, according to the first two Defense Department officials, imply that senior officers up the chain of command believed Team 3212 was embarking only on the daylong reconnaissance mission, as Captain Perozeni outlined in his Conop document. That trip, of 11 Americans and some 30 Nigerien soldiers, described a “civil reconnaissance” mission meant for “key-leader engagement meetings.”

Before he left Ouallam, those officials said, Captain Perozeni received the order to join the kill-or-capture mission against Mr. Cheffou, to be led by a separate assault force flying out of the town of Arlit. The order came from another junior officer, who was filling in for a regional commander on paternity leave.

Captain Perozeni pushed back against the change of mission, citing concerns over insufficient intelligence and equipment available to his team on the high-risk raid. But he did not resist orders to back up the separate assault force, the officials said.

As it turned out, that mission was later scrapped because of bad weather. Team 3212 was still on its reconnaissance mission, near the town of Tiloa, when American intelligence officials concluded that Mr. Cheffou and a handful of fighters had left their desert encampment near the border with Mali. The team was ordered to press on to that location, hoping to collect any information left behind that might offer clues about Mr. Cheffou’s hide-outs and network.

But the preliminary investigation indicates that senior officers at the Africa Command headquarters and its Special Operations component in Stuttgart were not informed of the change of plans. Nor were senior leaders at a Special Operations regional command in Chad, according to the findings.

However, according to the third Defense Department official, a lieutenant colonel in Chad had already approved both the helicopter raid based from Arlit, which was scrapped, and Team 3212’s original reconnaissance mission, which had taken it just 15 miles from the ambush site outside the village of Tongo Tongo.


Note: there is an ISIS propaganda video making the rounds of the interwebz that incorporates go-pro video from the SF troops killed in this action. Said video shows Americans being shot and dying. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5462437/ISIS-releases-shocking-video-Niger-ambush-killed-4-troops.html

04-24-2018, 12:33 AM
AGADEZ, Niger (AP) — On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America's battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa's vast Sahel region.

Three hangars and the first layers of a runway command a sandy, barren field. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year. The base, a few miles outside Agadez and built at the request of Niger's government, will eventually house fighter jets and MQ-9 drones transferred from the capital Niamey. The drones, with surveillance and added striking capabilities, will have a range enabling them to reach a number of West and North African countries.


04-26-2018, 01:02 AM
Poor training, complacency and a culture of excessive risk contributed to the deaths of four U.S. soldiers during an operation in Niger in October, according to a classified Pentagon report.
The report, described by officials familiar with its contents, details a series of missteps and describes a disregard for military procedures and for the chain of command.
Among other things, the report discloses that low-level commanders, determined to make a mark against local jihadis in the West African nation, took liberties to get operations approved through the chain of command.



05-10-2018, 05:22 PM
Caveat: WaPo. If you can't access via the URL, google-search the headline and acquire full access that way.

A months-long investigation of a disastrous U.S. Special Operations mission that killed four Americans in Niger found that “individual, organizational and institutional failures and deficiencies” contributed to an operation that spiraled out of control, singling out two junior officers for improper planning but not placing blame on any single factor.

The Pentagon released an eight-page summary report Thursday, withholding thousands of pages of witness statements, maps and other documents and a longer report of about 180 pages. The U.S. military often releases those materials at the conclusion of an investigation, but said it is still working to declassify additional information.

The Pentagon also released a 10-minute video re-creation of the battle*, but withheld a longer unclassified re-creation shown to family members and members of Congress this month.

* Which is here. https://www.militarytimes.com/video/2018/05/10/pentagon-releases-recreation-of-deadly-niger-ambush/

Rhetorical: 0.36 mark, "the convoy halted". What ever happened to 'get off the X'?

05-19-2018, 02:13 AM
Niger Ambush Summary

06-05-2018, 10:39 AM
An excellent article from 'The Guardian', helped by having access to a Nigerien National Guard soldier who was held by ISIS (his outpost being overrun) and helps to explain the background. Tribes or clans, cattle, guns and more - plus some religion. So a key section:
Sahraoui, the leader and founder, may be a jihadist pledged to Islamic State, but his camel and motorbike-mounted militants are very different to ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Sahraoui is thought to be originally from the disputed territory of Western Sahara (https://www.theguardian.com/world/western-sahara) and spent time in Algeria before coming to Mali. After years at the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) (https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/266591.htm) and the al-Qaida-linked group al-Murabitoun (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-34881170), he split off to found ISGS, piggybacking on a conflict on the Niger-Mali border that had been rumbling on for decades and was ripe for exploitation.

The people he chose – nomadic Fulani (http://www.dw.com/en/west-africa-fulani-conflict-getting-worse/a-43679371) herders in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua – had been feuding with the Daoussahak Tuareg of the Ménaka region in Mali for decades.

“The Tillabéri problem is an ethnic problem,” said a Nigerien intelligence officer who had worked on the region for decades. “The Fulani have a problem with the Tuareg, and jihadists profited from the situation.”

06-12-2018, 09:18 PM
Worth watching a short, seven minute video casting doubt on the DoD version of events:
In this video, Donald Bolduc, the former commander of special operations in Africa, and Jack Murphy, an eight-year army special forces veteran, speak about the report. Some of their assessments differ from the findings laid out by the Pentagon about what went wrong.

06-15-2018, 06:18 PM
In June 2016 a French parliamentary committee held a hearing with the French SF CO, about their role and capacity - asking him to describe some typical operations that French SF conducted. He answered referring to operations in West Africa:
An operation always starts with an intelligence phase...We seek first to understand the organization of the enemy, so as to optimise our leverage.....Once you have solid information , you have a mission preparation phase, which assumes an even greater degree of certainty about your objectives and context. Finally comes the time of the action, and all means of action can be considered.

The linked report cites a published French parliamentary report, without a link and the quote can be found on pg.28. See:https://remotecontrolproject.org/publications/britains-shadow-army-policy-options-for-external-oversight-of-uk-special-forces/

06-28-2018, 12:58 PM
The first is a BBC News photo essay 'The war in the desert; Why the Sahara is terror's new front line'. IT has a few interesting, though not new quotes. This refers o the UN peacekeepers, almost 14,000 peacekeepers from nearly 60 different countries:
Different countries accept different levels of risk. Many are simply going through the motions - counting down the days, trying to stay alive, and having little real impact in a place where it’s nearly impossible to keep the peace.

Then citing the UN Force Commander: I need better equipped and better trained contingents. I need more vehicles… to protect my people against the IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and mines and so on and I need to upgrade the training level of my contingents.

Then the trade in migrants / refugees in Niger: Criminal gangs moved in and the desert tour guides became human traffickers, carrying lorry-loads of migrants north to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This thriving industry provides both cash and cover for the radical, violent, extremist groups assembling across the Sahara.

On external funding of mosques and schools:Towering over a second meeting is a new white and green mosque, which smells of fresh paint. The UN says Qatari money paid for the building - like Saudi Arabia, here and in other parts of Africa they have a programme that provides new mosques and preachers to teach a very conservative form of Islam.

The references to an attack @ Timbuktu are to an attack in April 2018, so this report may have taken time to reach publication

The second article, published yesterday in 'The Guardian' is headlined: 'New terrorist threat as EU stance on migrants triggers disquiet in Niger;

Efforts to buttress Europe’s borders have left people smugglers in Niger jobless and ripe for exploitation by jihadist groups'. It opens with:
Thousands of men who transported, fed, and housed the hundreds of thousands of migrants who used to cross the impoverished west African country are now unemployed and could easily be exploited by one of the major jihadist groups operating in the region, said leaders in the remote former migrant hub of Agadez.

That is simply weird and appears to contradict the BBC report!

I will copy this to the Mali and UN Peacekeeping threads for reference.