Two years after the deadly ambush in Tongo Tongo, Niger, which left four Americans dead, the terrorist perpetrators are still to be killed or captured.
To amend this, the State Department is offering a $5 million bounty for information that would lead to the arrest or conviction in any country of any individual who had a role in the attack under the Rewards for Justice program. Additionally, the State Department is offering a separate $5 million bounty for information that would lead U.S. or allied forces to Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) terrorist group.
On October 4, 2017, Operational Detachment Alpha 3212 was conducting a joint Direct Action (DA) operation with their Nigerien partner force. During their movement to one of the targets, they were caught in open ground by a much larger enemy force. Most of their Nigerien counterparts fled the battlefield. Faced with withering enemy fire and bad communications, the Special Forces operators were divided. After the tactical advantage had been lost and the enemy had fire superiority, it was only a matter of time before the Special Forces team began suffering casualties. At the end of the engagement, four Americans and four Nigeriens partners lay dead.
Following the botched operation, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was quick to blame the ODA’s leadership for the failure. Army Captain Michael Perozeni was blamed for not training its Nigerien partners well enough and for not rehearsing immediate-action and battle drills before the operation. Moreover, the initial after-action report blamed Cpt. Perozeni of providing a false mission plan to his chain of command. Instead of declaring they would be conducting Direct Action missions, he stated that he would be just meeting up with local elders to garner information about the jihadists.
In its after-action investigation, Africa Command (AFRICOM) determined that “the direct cause of the enemy attack in Tongo Tongo is that the enemy achieved tactical surprise there, and our forces were outnumbered approximately three to one.”
ODA 3212’s main mission in Niger was Foreign Internal Defence (FID), that is to train, advise, and assist Nigerien forces in their fight against ISIS-GS and other terrorist groups that plague the region.
Former Secretary of Defence James Mattis was pivotal in reassigning blame where it was due. Cpt. Perozeni was exonerated and more senior leaders in the 3rd Special Forces Group (3rd SFG) and AFRICOM were reprimanded.
American intelligence determined that the militants who ambushed ODA 3212 were affiliated with the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) terrorist group. ISIS-GS leader Abu Walid al-Sahrawi claimed responsibility for the ambush in January 2018.
The four Americans killed in action were Sergeant 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright, and Sergeant La David Johnson.