In an act of recognition and meaning, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) awarded six medals to Nigerien soldiers who fought alongside the American Special Forces operators during the Niger Ambush.
The deadly incident took place on October 4, 2017, near the village of Tongo Tongo, Niger (that’s why the event is often called the Tongo Tongo ambush). On that day, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3212 was conducting a joint Direct Action (DA) mission alongside its Nigerien counterparts. During their movement to one of the targets, they were ambushed by a much larger enemy force. The ambush claimed the lives of four Americans and four Nigeriens.
The ceremony took place close on the two-year anniversary of the ambush. Four medals were given to surviving soldiers and two to the families of deceased ones. The awards included two Bronze Star Medals, one Army Commendation Medal and three Army Achievement Medals. General Richard Clarke, the commanding officer of SOCOM, and Ambassador Eric P. Whitaker, the top U.S. diplomat in the country, presented the awards.
The four surviving soldiers were Cpl. Moustapha Kakalé, Soldier 2nd Class Ibrahim Assoumane, Soldier 2nd Class Abdou Kane and Soldier 2nd Class Kamel Issoufou Oumar. The two posthumous awards were given to the families of Adjutant Chef Soumana Bagué and Soldier 2nd Class Abdoul Rachid Yarima.
Speaking about those who gave their lives on that fateful day, Ambassador Whitaker said that “we wish for these heroes to rest in peace as we honor them. Of course, we can never fully repay the debt we owe, but we can remember their ultimate sacrifice and continue upholding the ideals for which they stood.”
“I believe there’s no more compelling evidence of an enduring partnership between Americans and Nigeriens than the tragedy of blood spilled by our soldiers together on the battlefield two years ago. And our bilateral relationship has never been stronger,” added Ambassador Whitaker.
The ambassador said that the U.S. continues to support the Nigerien government both with training initiatives and materiel contributions. Recently, the U.S. opened a drone airbase in the African country.
Niger is part of the G5 Sahel, which also includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania, and is a hotbed of Islamist terrorism. American and Coalition SOF units have been conducting Counterterrorism (CT) and Foreign Internal Defence (FID) operations, among other missions, in the region for some years now. The Tongo Tongo ambush, however, brought these operations to the spotlight.
There is a $5 million bounty on the heads of those who committed or supported the ambush.