American troops and the Nigerien soldiers they were patrolling with fought ISIS-allied militants for two hours before help arrived, the Pentagon says. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a new timeline Monday of the deadly ambush, the Wall Street Journal reports. "This is a very complex situation that they found themselves in, and a pretty tough firefight," Dunford said. Four American troops and five Nigerien soldiers were killed Oct. 4 when they were ambushed by around 50 militants armed with machine guns and rockets. Dunford told reporters that it was an hour before American troops called for help from nearby French forces, and another hour after that before French Mirage jet fighters arrived at the scene near the border with Mali.
For reasons that Dunford says are unclear, the French jets didn't initially attack the militants, though French helicopters and Nigerien reinforcements joined the fight later in the day. The slain Americans were part of a group of 12 US troops and 30 Nigeriens on a routine patrol to the remote village of Tongo Tongo, the Washington Post reports. They were ambushed after leaving the village, having spent the night there. Dunford said the investigation will look into whether their objective changed at some point, whether they had adequate communications, and why the body of Sgt. La David Johnson wasn't recovered for two days. The military is also believed to be investigating whether villagers delayed troops' departure to give militants time to set up the ambush. (Johnson's widow says she hasn't been allowed to see his body.)