Why did a U.S. mission in Niger turn deadly?

New reporting raises questions about the Pentagon’s answer, which placed most of the blame on a special operations team.

Debra Gannon’s son, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, was one of four U.S. special operations soldiers killed in Niger on October 4, 2017, when Islamist fighters ambushed their team. The clash near Tongo Tongo was the deadliest for U.S. forces in Africa since the “Black Hawk Down” battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, 24 years earlier. The foggy circumstances of the gunfight—the subject of much debate—have confused the families of the fallen, and the public.

Gannon believes her son, along with Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, fought heroically. But in an investigation into what went wrong, the military laid much of the blame on the team rather than its senior commanders. The Marine Corps general overseeing U.S. military operations in Africa praised special operations units for “serving well,” but pointed out, “This particular team is not indicative of what they do.”

The military’s conclusions stung the families of the deceased soldiers and contradicted what they were hearing from other team members and news reports. “That really infuriated me,” Gannon says. “They’re trying to make them look bad.”

Read This Next

The world is still falling short of meeting its climate goals
What to expect with COVID-19 vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11
Can UNESCO status save the world’s oldest mummies?

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet