A video recently released by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), the group responsible for the ambush on October 4th, shows U.S.-made weapons. The video is titled Punishments of Traitors and features brutal executions, accompanied by nasheeds (Islamic ballads).
In the video, Abdelhakim al-Sahrawi, the Emir of Gourma for ISGS, can be seen slitting the throats of victims. At the end of the executions, a message appears that translates into, “Remaining despite the snitches of the Sahwat and their masters,” with the date 1440 AH of the Islamic calendar, which converts to 11/12 of September 2018.
The most interesting part of this video and the one depicting the raid on a Nigerien Gendarmerie in 2017, is the appearance of several U.S.-made weapons and equipment. At the end of the execution video, several fallen fighters are eulogized and one of them is holding an M4, which is extremely rare in this part of the world. However, there are weapons distributed by the Pentagon to host-nation Special Forces, and Niger is one of those countries.
Several weapons and equipment have been recovered in 2018
March 2018, MSA-GATIA militia recovered:
- Toyota Land Cruiser
- M240-SLR semi-auto belt-fed gun, matching serial number
- M14 rifle, matching serial number
December 2018, French Special Forces recovered:
- Glock 19, with matching serial number to the late Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, sidearm
- A laser sight, also with a matching serial number
- Night vision goggles, unconfirmed serial number
The screen grab below shows an ISGS fighter carrying what appears to be an M4, possibly taken from the Green Beret ambush. The video was taken on October 21 2017, in Ayorou, Tillabery region, 17 days after the Ambush in Tongo Tongo. In the video, the insurgents attack a Gendarmerie outpost, killing at least 11 Gendarmes and wounding another five.
When we zoom in on the above rifle, we can see what appears to be a SU-231/PEQ Eotech 553 sight. This sight is part of the SOPMOD M4 accessory package and further confirms the origin of this weapon. Furthermore, these types of groups like to document trophies taken from the battlefield in their videos.
In the last picture, the same insurgent is also carrying a multicam belt with what appears to be a med kit. This type equipment is generally carried in this part of the world by U.S. forces and not by host nation forces, who have more rudimentary kits at their disposal. It must be said that multicam belts are not exclusive to U.S. Special Forces, however, it is a camo pattern popularized and widely used by the U.S. SOF community.
So what does the latest video evidence mean?
Scenario 1: It is likely that the weapons and equipment were taken during the Ambush in Tongo Tongo because of the timing of the videos. The weapons seen in both videos are taken from Nigerien Special Forces. Yet, according to a Nigerien Special Forces commander, these weapons are only given to specific officers within the Special Forces units and are therefore extremely rare among Nigerien SF officers, let alone soldiers.
Scenario 2: Weapons are taken from the slain Green Berets, which would mean that more equipment is still out there. This offers ISGS propaganda and possibly even more anguish to loved ones. There are a lot of voices in the public and in this current regime that would like to see an end to the American presence in Africa, and therefore an end to these types of situations. However, this opens the door for more terrorist safe havens to strike the West. It also gives China and Russia more room to increase their spheres of influence, and with it, lesser regard for human rights and democracy on an already-fragile continent.
Thanks to Grey Dynamics (@GreyDynamics) and Héni Nsaibia (@MENASTREAM) for their support and incredible insight to this story.