Airstrike kills terrorist leader tied to deadly 2017 ambush on US troops in Niger

A French soldier from Operation Barkhane rides in an armored vehicle in Mali

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A French soldier from Operation Barkhane rides in an armored vehicle in Mali
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REUTERS/Joe Penney

  • A French airstrike on a terrorist camp in Mali killed a senior leader of the Islamic State affiliate in West Africa that killed four Green Berets in a deadly ambush in Niger last year, according to reports from the French military.
  • Mohamed Ag Almouner, a top official for the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, was found dead by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighters.
  • The strike also killed another member of the group, as well as two civilians.

A senior official with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was killed in a strike on a terrorist camp in Mali involving French warplanes and commandos, the French defense ministry confirmed Monday.

The lifeless body of Mohamed Ag Almouner, a senior leader for the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for a deadly ambush that left four American Green Berets dead in Niger last year, was found on the battlefield by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighter jets Sunday, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, which cited a statement from the French military.

An unidentified member of the group was also killed.

In October 2017, armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants ambushed US and Nigerien troops. Five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed while another ten people were wounded. During the firefight that ensued, US and Nigerien forces managed to kill nearly two dozen terrorists.

The four American special operations soldiers who lost their lives in the fight were: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black. The US Army Special Forces team leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, who was singled out for blame in an investigation into the ambush during which he was wounded, is reportedly being considered for a silver star, the military’s third-highest valor award for gallantry.

The US military maintains a presence in Niger to “provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Africa Command spokesman US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo told CNN after the incident last year.

France has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa for Operation Barkhane, an effort to eradicate Islamist militants in the region.

Sunday’s airstrike also ended the lives of two civilians. “The French criteria for opening fire are particularly strict and aim at avoiding civilian casualties,” the French military said in a statement, “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission. An investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during this strike.”

US Africa Command said that it “routinely works with our French partners in the Sahel region, who provide a bulk of the force with more than 4,000 military forces,” adding that the US remains ” committed to assisting the French-led operations to degrade violent extremist organizations and to build the defense capacity of … Mali and its neighbors.”