French army spokesman Colonel Patrick Steiger told a news conference in Paris that its regional Barkhane force had been asked to support a counterattack, after Niger and USA troops were ambushed by suspected Islamist militants overnight.
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The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the incident publicly. The U.S. Africa Command says it is still working to confirm details on the attack.
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A senior military official described it as a "partner training mission".
U.S. African Command in an updated state that they were "providing advice and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations".
In February and March, troops from the United States, Belgium, Australia and Canada, including US Special Forces, conducted a 17-day training operation with Nigerien troops focused on fighting extremist insurgents. Chad is one of the nerve centers of the worldwide counterterror fight, with U.S., French, and British troops working alongside local forces at the Multinational Joint Task Force in the capital of Ndjamena. According to some news reports, the joint patrol was probably attacked by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Libya maintains a nascent ISIS affiliate which the Trump administration has struck twice with drones in recent weeks, and al-Qaida is active in Somalia's civil war. Based on publicly available information, we know that the USA military operates or otherwise has access to at least seven different sites in Niger, including the Nigerien Air Force bases in the capital Niamay and the city of Agadez to the northeast.