Fourth Special Forces soldier KIA in Niger, recovered from behind enemy lines

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wa. (from l.); Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga, were all killed in the ambush attack in Niger. (U.S. ARMY)

The number of U.S. Special Forces soldiers killed during an ambush in Niger this week after it was reported soldiers recovered the body of a missing service member on Friday.

“The body of another US service member has been recovered from the area of the attack bringing the number of US service members killed in this attack to four,” Department of Defense spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Nigerian army said their joint patrol with U.S. Special Forces “fell into an ambush set by terrorist elements aboard a dozen vehicles and about twenty motorcycles.”

The 12-member Special Forces US team was leaving a meeting in unarmored pick-up trucks when they began taking fire from small arms, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, according to a US defense official.

According to CNN, a massive search and rescue operation involving US, French and Nigerien troops was launched soon after it was realized one of the Green Berets was missing. “Elite US Special Operations Forces troops were flown in from the continental US to aid in the recovery effort.”

A Navy SEAL team was brought to a US military installation in Italy and put on standby, in case they were needed for rescue efforts.

The New York Times released the information about the three fatalities and two casualties before officials made the information public on Wednesday. The newspaper reported they spoke with two officials on a condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the casualties publicly.

The report stated the joint patrol was conducted in an area targeted by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb militants.  Reuters reports, “The assailants were believed to be led by Dondou Chefou, a lieutenant in a new group operating along the Mali-Niger border and called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.”

The soldiers came under such heavy fire they called for air support from French fighter jets, but the firefight was at such close range no aircraft were able to engage.

On Friday, he Army identified three of the four dead soldiers from the Army 3rd Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, N.C. — Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Dustin Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga.  The two injured soldiers have yet to be identified. They were evacuated in stable condition to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, U.S. Africa Command said in its statement.

A US official says a full investigation into what happened is underway.

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