Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, a US defense official said that the joint US-Nigerien force, armed only with rifles, managed to kill 20 ISIS militants during the firefight.
According to US military officials, the 12-member team were said to be traveling with 30 Nigerien soldiers when they were attacked by about 50 ISIS affiliated fighters armed with rocket propelled grenades, mortars, and heavy machine guns.
During the subsequent gun battle, which lasted for hours, four US soldiers were killed and two were wounded. Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed.
Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, a US defense official told CNN that the joint US-Nigerien force, armed only with rifles, managed to kill 20 ISIS militants during the firefight.
A Nigerien soldier, whose unit was the first ground force to respond and arrive on scene in the aftermath of the attack, reportedly said he was informed by some of the wounded Nigerien soldiers that the first two vehicles were hit and the convoy was subsequently split.
The attackers began the assault equipped with eight vehicles with "dozens" of fighters arriving via motorcycle to reinforce the attack during the battle, according to the Nigerien soldier who isn't authorized to speak publicly on the incident.
A US official directly familiar with after action said that the US military convoy was separated during the ambush in Niger.
The separation of the convoy may explain why Sgt. La David Johnson's body became separated from the rest of team.
The Nigerien soldier described the joint US-Nigerien unit as being a "light force," believing that the combined group had insufficient numbers and firepower for a patrol into what he said was a high risk area.
Military officials have said that the team was never expected to encounter hostile forces during its patrol and intelligence gathering operations.