‘Everyone can see the signs of your demise…the humiliation of being ruled by a clumsy idiot’ – Chilling message to America delivered in ISIS video of soldiers killed in risky Niger mission that was NOT approved by senior command
ISIS delivered a warning to America in a video showing the deaths of US soldiers in the deserts of west Africa, saying it has ‘failed’ as a country and is ‘ruled by a clumsy idiot’, a translation of the clip in Arabic reveals.
The extremist group released the nine-minute, 17-second video online on Sunday showing the deaths of three of four US soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger last October. The footage was taken mainly from the helmetcams of the slain soldiers.
A military investigation into the Niger attack found that the team didn’t get required senior command approval for their risky mission to capture a high-level Islamic State militant, several US officials familiar with the report said.
As the video shows images of American soldiers training Nigerien troops, the voiceover warns that the United States has ‘become a prey to the Caliphate’s soldiers in all parts of the world’.
◾ISIS released the nine-minute, 17-second video online on Sunday showing the deaths of three of four US soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger last October
◾A translation of the Arabic voice over warns that the United States has ‘become a prey to the Caliphate’s soldiers in all parts of the world’
◾Footage in the video was taken mainly from the helmetcams of the slain soldiers
◾A military investigation into the attack found that the team didn’t get required senior command approval for their risky mission
◾The soldiers were on a mission to capture a high-level Islamic State militant when they were ambushed by dozens of Islamic State fighters
◾The soldiers were reportedly ill-equipped in lightly armored pick-up trucks and an SUV, mainly carrying M4 carbines, when they were ambushed on October 4
◾It was the largest combat loss of American lives in Africa since the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia in 1993, when 19 American troops died
◾The incident raised questions about role of 800 US troops stationed in Niger
US Army Special Forces Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson (left), Staff Sergeant Bryan Black (second left) and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright (second right) died near Tongo Tongo in western Niger on October 4. A fourth soldier, Sergeant La David Johnson (right), was also killed after he got separated from the rest of the unit
Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, 35, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, 39, and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright, 29, died near Tongo Tongo in western Niger on October 4.
A fourth soldier Sergeant La David Johnson, 25, was also killed after he got separated from the rest of the unit.
Five Nigerien troops, working alongside the Americans, also died, along with 21 terrorists.
An investigation into the into the incident doesn’t point to that failure as a cause of the deadly ambush.
The men were apparently were ill-equipped in lightly armored pick-up trucks and an SUV, mainly carrying M4 carbines, when they were ambushed.
Their open-bedded trucks had virtually no protection against enemy fire, and those in the SUV were had little room to maneuver inside the vehicle, reducing their ability to fire back.
Video of the ambush opens with images of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and members of the Sahel-based group Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) swearing allegiance to the ‘caliphate’.
JNIM was formed from a number of jihadist groups in West Africa in March 2017. The members initially pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.
A man speaks in Arabic as the video cuts to images of the slain US soldiers and Americans training Nigerien troops.
Transcription of ISIS’s Warning to America in Niger Attack Video
In the first two minutes of the nine-minute clip, an Islamic State fighter addresses the United States. These are his words:
‘In The Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful:
‘”Already has Our Word been passed before to our servants, that they would certainly be assisted, and that Our forces, they surely must conquer,” Surah As-Saaffat, Verses 171, 172, 173, Quran.
‘Indeed, we announced the Islamic Khilafa [Islamic Caliphate] and pledged allegiance to the Khalifa [religious leader and successor to the Prophet] of the Muslims, who they [Muslims] must obey willingly as long as he is ruling by their God and Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) Book [Quran], leading them to their glory and radiance.
‘Yes, indeed, the path has become clearer thanks to Allah’s grace. And we are no longer scattered; divided by political parties, groups and organizations.
‘You drowned, O America, and there is no one to save you. You have become a prey to the Caliphate’s soldiers in all parts of the world.
‘You have failed and everyone can see the sings of your demise. One sign would be the humiliation of being ruled by a clumsy idiot.
‘And here it [America] comes back again, defender of the Jews and the Cross, with its army, sacrificing its children in the fight against the Jihadists. Hoping, along with its allies, to defeat the Islamic State and suppress our Jihad.
‘Listen, America! And listen, O Christians and Jews:
‘Allah SWT said, “Already has Our Word been passed before to our servants, that they would certainly be assisted, and that Our forces, they surely must conquer”. Surah As-Saaffat, Verses 171, 172, 173, Quran.
‘”Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers, and still the indignation of their hearts,” Surah At-Taubah, Verses 14, 15, Quran.’
Two songs are featured through the video – one titled ‘Our Swords Will Determine the Result [of war], and another titled ‘They Think No One is Protecting Our Land’.
The first warns that a war will take place in the meadow of Dabiq, a town north of Aleppo, Syria.
‘Our martyrs’ swords will write another chapter in our book of glory,’ the song says. ‘We came to you today with death, so taste its bitterness.’
The second says: They think no one is protecting our land, tell them to come and see by themselves. They can fight as much as they want. We are brave soldiers ready to kill for our religion.’
The extremist speaks about pledging allegiance to the caliphate and quotes the Quran, saying it will lead jihadists ‘to their glory and radiance’.
He also says that the United States has ‘drowned’, and refers to President Donald Trump as a ‘clumsy idiot’.
The voiceover says: ‘You drowned, O America, and there is no one to save you. You have become a prey to the Caliphate’s soldiers in all parts of the world.
‘You have failed and everyone can see the signs of your demise. One sign would be the humiliation of being ruled by a clumsy idiot.
‘And here it [America] comes back again, defender of the Jews and the Cross, with its army, sacrificing its children in the fight against the Jihadists. Hoping, along with its allies, to defeat the Islamic State and suppress our Jihad.’
As the video cuts to footage of the ambush, two extremist songs play in the background, both with Arabic lyrics.
The first song, titled ‘Our Swords will Determine the Result [of war]’, warns that a war will take place in the meadow of Dabiq, a town north of Aleppo, Syria.
‘Our martyrs’ swords will write another chapter in our book of glory,’ the song says. ‘We came to you today with death, so taste its bitterness.’
A second song, titled ‘They Think No One is Protecting our Land’, says: ‘They can fight as much as they want. We are brave soldiers ready to kill for our religion.’
The release of the shocking video has raised several questions as to what US forces are doing in Niger.
The ambush was the largest combat loss of American lives in Africa since the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia in 1993, when 19 American troops died.
The New York Times had seen the video in advance of it appearing online. The paper said it had bought it from a news agency in Mauritania and said that agency had not paid ISIS for it.
According to the Times, the soldiers were part of Team 3212, made up of 11 Americans and 30 Nigeriens, who had were on ‘a routine, low-risk patrol with little chance of encountering the enemy.’
Initial information suggested the Army Special Forces team set out on its October mission to meet local Nigerien leaders.
But on October 3, American forces discovered from a cell phone beep the likely whereabouts of Doundoun Cheffou, a suspected local terrorist leader who was believed to have been responsible for the kidnapping of American aid worker, Jeffrey Woodke, a year earlier.
The Americans rushed to get surveillance aircraft to the spot where the beep had come from and ordered an assault team from Arlit, nearly 400 miles away.
‘The scramble to pull together a raid and hunt down Mr. Cheffou upended what had been a fairly uneventful day for the four American sergeants already out on patrol,’ the Times reported.
They had been assigned to visit villages around their base of Ouallam, north of the country’s capital Niamey, to meet locals as part of a charm offensive in the area aimed at dissuading locals from backing terror groups.
So when the soldiers were redeployed to join hunt for Cheffou they were ill-equipped because the area ‘was supposed to have little militant presence’.
Officials say it now appears the team went after Chefou from the onset, without outlining that intent to higher-level commanders.
As a result, commanders couldn’t accurately assess the mission’s risk, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the results of the investigation before they’re publicly released.
The finding will likely increase scrutiny on US military activity in Africa, particularly the role of special operations forces who’ve been advising and working with local troops on the continent for years.
The investigation finds no single point of failure leading to the attack, which occurred after the soldiers learned Chefou had left the area, checked his last known location and started for home.
It also draws no conclusion about whether villagers in Tongo Tongo, where the team stopped for water and supplies, alerted IS militants to American forces in the area.
Still, questions remain about whether higher-level commanders – if given the chance – would have approved or adjusted the mission, or provided additional resources that could have helped repel the ambush.
Army Col Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, wouldn’t comment on the investigation, beyond saying it’s now complete and being reviewed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior leaders.
The other US officials said the final report could have consequences for US military operations in Africa.
Gen Thomas Waldhauser, the Africa Command’s leader, is expected to recommend greater oversight to ensure proper mission approval and risk assessment, they said.
Waldhauser isn’t expected to scale back missions in Africa or remove commanders’ authorities to make decisions. He is slated to testify before a House committee Tuesday.
The incident is likely to trigger discussions about improved security measures, too, including heavier armored vehicles, better communications and improved individual trackers to make it easier to find missing troops.
Top Africa Command officials, led by its chief of staff, Maj Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr., have spent months trying to unravel the complex incident, conducting dozens of interviews across the United States, Europe and Africa.
US and Nigerien officials say the troops received intelligence about Chefou’s location and acted on what was likely considered a fleeting chance to get him, or at least gather valuable intelligence on the American hostage.
It’s unclear where Chefou was believed to be. But before arriving at that location, the US-Nigerien team learned he had left and only found his abandoned camp.
The troops still traveled on to the site to collect any remaining information there. A second US commando team assigned to the mission was unable to go because of weather problems.
One Nigerien official said the troops that reached the destination found food and a motorcycle. They destroyed the motorcycle.
The team then started its 110-mile journey back to base, the official said, but stopped in the first village they reached, Tongo Tongo, to get water and supplies.
The US investigation notes the team stayed at Tongo Tongo longer than normal, but says there is no compelling evidence to conclude a villager or anyone else deliberately delayed their departure or betrayed them by alerting militants.
Survivors believe a IS leader in Tongo Tongo deliberately tried to keep the soldiers there to give Cheffou’s men time to plan the attack.
A Nigerien official said the IS leader, Abou Walid Sahraoui, had heard about the team’s visit to Cheffou’s abandoned camp and dispatched about 20 fighters to pursue the US and Nigerien troops.
A larger group of militants followed later, said the official, who also would only discuss the matter on condition of anonymity. US officials couldn’t corroborate that information.
A man in the village was later arrested and his phone contained numbers for known terrorists including Cheffou.
When the soldiers left to continue their journey around 11.30 am, they soon came under machine gun attack. The group split up, leaving Black, Wright and Jeremiah Johnson behind.
They were ambushed just outside the village. The video released by ISIS shows two of the soldiers running alongside their Toyota Land Cruiser while the third drives it.
They fired colored smoke grenades to provide some cover and to give any friendly aircraft a better idea of their position.
But they were cornered by some 50 ISIS fighters and the video showed one man go down and then gruesome close-ups of the mutilated bodies of the men.
The US troops had called for help using the code ‘Broken Arrow’, which signals they were in imminent danger, officials said.
They then followed procedures and shut down their radios to prevent the enemies from using them.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joseph Dunford said at the time that the soldiers did not request support for an hour after the fighting started and French forces arrived an hour after that.
The bodies were recovered later that night when helicopters finally arrived from Arlit.
La David Johnson’s body was recovered two days later, a mile from the spot of the ambush.
Officials said the procedural breakdown meant the overall mission lacked the higher-level command approval necessary to go after a senior militant.
Such missions require approval by senior Special Operations Command officers who would’ve been in Chad or at Africa Command’s headquarters in Germany.
The reporting failure meant those commanders lacked a complete picture of what the unit was doing, so concluded the mission was unlikely to encounter enemy forces.
Had the unit gotten proper oversight and approvals, officials said, it might have been better equipped or included additional personnel more capable of sustaining a fight.
The killings led to a political fight after La David Johnson’s widow Myeshia accused President Donald Trump of telling her her husband ‘knew what he signed up for’ when he joined the Army.
Trump denied he had said it but Florida Rep Frederica Wilson, who was with Myeshia Johnson at the time insisted it was true.
That led to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly slamming Wilson as ‘an empty barrel’ making noise about nothing.
US Africa Command condemned the release of the ISIS video, saying it ‘demonstrates the depravity of the enemy we are fighting’.
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