Mattis reviewing Niger attack investigation amid video controversy
iStock_Thinkstock(NIGER, Africa) — The U.S. military’s investigation into the attack last October in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers is complete and being reviewed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as the Pentagon condemned a video of the ambush that surfaced on the internet.
“It’s up to the secretary now to review and for him to be comfortable with the information in this exhaustive investigation,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, told a House committee on Tuesday.
“Once that’s complete our first order of business, as we’ve said from the outset, is to brief the families and provide them with this information,” he added.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson were killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in northwest Niger when their team of Green Berets accompanying Nigerien soldiers was attacked by ISIS fighters.
“The investigation is exhaustive and very very detailed,” Waldhauser told the House Armed Services Committee. He noted that Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, who headed the investigation took three months to produce the report after gathering interviews in Africa and Europe with witnesses and officers involved in planning the team’s mission.
Waldhauser said once Mattis has finished reviewing the investigation the four families will be briefed and afterward he and Cloutier will brief Congress in closed session. The presentation will also include an animated video that will recreate what happened that day.
This past weekend an alleged ISIS video of the patrol was released on the internet. It contained what appeared to be footage of the attack gathered by a helmet-camera worn by one of the soldiers killed in the attack.
On Monday the Pentagon denounced the video as propaganda and strongly urged media outlets not to broadcast the video.
“We ask the media, the public and all responsible entities not tin aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images these videos,” Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Monday. “You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda if you do that.”
Manning said the families of the four soldiers had been previously told about the existence of the video. He stressed that the Defense Department could not authenticate the video since it was an ISIS propaganda video.
Manning explained that the video “is poorly produced and it’s spliced together so we can’t confirm that that is in fact taken at the location that they’re saying it did.”
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