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US offers $10mn reward to hunt killers of Army soldiers ambushed in Niger

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of US soldiers killed in Niger on October 4, 2017 during an ambush attack by suspected ISIL militants. From left: Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Sgt. La David Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright.

The US State Department has announced a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to capture of those behind the ambush killing of four American Special Forces soldiers in the West African nation of Niger two years ago.

The department further offered a separate reward of $5 million for details that would help in tracking down Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, identified as the leader of an ISIL-linked militant group in Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), according to a statement released on Friday.

The press release also pointed out that the funding was offered through what is dubbed as the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program -- a 35-year-old program that claims to have paid more than $150 million to more than 100 people "who provided actionable information that helped bring terrorists to justice or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide."

The October 2017 ambush took place near the village of Tongo Tongo, in the desert of southwestern Niger. The four slain US troops -- Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. La David Johnson -- were reportedly part of a group of American and Nigerien forces that set out in unarmored vehicles for a reconnaissance mission that transformed into a failed attempt to capture an alleged terrorist.

Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed during the operation, according to a report by US-based military news outlet Task & Purpose.

The ambush led to a US military probe into the Army’s leadership decisions preceding the surprise attack. Investigators found a series of errors leading up to the mission, such as mischaracterizing the US troops' initial mission as civil-military reconnaissance.

The investigators, however, did not recommend for any high-level commanders to be punished.

The development came the same day the company commander of the ambushed soldiers complained in a New York Times article that the US Army bungled its investigation of the ambush attack by failing to hold its senior leaders accountable.

The commander, former Army Maj. Alan Van Saun, further revealed that he received an unwarranted reprimand from the US military following the incident, insisting that the move effectively ended his career.

"[W]hile subsequent reviews of the investigation offered yet another chance to hold people responsible, those opportunities fled quickly, leaving the chain of command, in which I had entrusted so much, unaccountable for decisions they made in my absence, but for which I was left responsible," Van Saun emphasized.


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