A survivor of the ambush on US Special Ops forces in Niger offers new details of the Oct. 4 attack to ABC News, declaring that Sgt. La David Johnson was killed while going "above and beyond" to defend others in the group. "He died fighting for his brothers on his team," the survivor says. "He grabbed any and every weapon available to him. The guy is a true war hero." A senior US intelligence official also spoke to ABC News, raising questions about why the team had a second mission added late in the day despite a second team being unable to join them as planned. The team was originally on a reconnaissance mission to talk to local leaders, both sources say, but then a kill-or-capture objective focused on a high-value target with ties to al-Qaeda and ISIS was added on. Multiple US officials confirmed that the team was looking for a high-value target to NBC News as well.
"They should have been up and back in a day. Because they were up there so f---ing long on a mission that morphed, they were spotted, surveilled, and ultimately hit," the official who spoke to ABC says. The team of 12 Americans and 30 Nigerien soldiers was out for more than a full day and was on its way back when it was asked to turn around and find the high-value target, the sources say; that directive did not change even when a second US Special Forces team that was supposed to meet up with the original team could not. The team found nothing at the target location and was again on its way back when they stopped to eat, and a village elder who met with the US soldiers was "obviously and deliberately trying to stall them," per both sources. The team also saw two motorcycle riders watching them and then quickly leaving the village. Shortly after the team departed, they were attacked. (Read more Niger stories.)