CNN: US Team In Niger Collecting Intel On Terrorist Leader

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSMiami/CNN) – One day after the Pentagon released new details of the attack in Niger that left four US soldiers dead including one from South Florida, CNN is now reporting the team that was ambushed was gathering intelligence on a terrorist leader operating in the area.

The information was given to CNN by two military officials who said the unit was not under orders to conduct a kill or capture mission on the leader, since such missions are typically reserved for other elite special forces teams.

Monday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters that the troops were on their way back to their operating base when they were ambushed by 50 ISIS fighters.

He said the troops waited an hour to call for help after the ambush and it took another hour for that help to arrive.

Four US and five Nigerien soldiers were killed and two Americans were wounded in the attack that occurred on October 4, but details of what happened remain murky more than two weeks after the incident as investigators work to determine precisely what happened.

A defense official also told CNN on Tuesday that the chief of staff to the commander of US Africa Command, Major Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr., is leading the formal investigation into the deadly ambush.

During Monday’s Pentagon briefing, Dunford told reporters there is no indication that the US troops were operating outside their orders at the time of the ambush.

“I don’t have any indication right now to believe or to know that they did anything other than operate within the orders that they were given,” Dunford said. “That’s what the investigation’s all about. So I think anyone that speculates about what special operations forces did or didn’t do is doing exactly that, they’re speculating.”

Still, Dunford said the military will be investigating if the planned reconnaissance mission changed.

“It was planned as a reconnaissance mission. What happened after they began to execute, in other words, did the mission change? That is one of the questions that’s being asked. It’s a fair question but I can’t tell you definitively the answer to that question. But, yes, we’ve seen the reports, we’ve seen the speculation,” he said.

One US soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson from Miami Gardens, was separated from the 12-member team as it was ambushed and his body was recovered 48 hours later.

Dunford said he could not definitely confirm reports that Johnson’s body was found nearly a mile away but that those details would come to light as part of the investigation.

“I think we owe the families and American people transparency in incidents like this and we intend to deliver just that,” Dunford said.

Johnson’s widow told “Good Morning America” that the military is keeping her in the dark.

“I don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything,” said Myeshia Johnson.

Johnson’s wife also claimed that she was not allowed to see his remains. Dunford said he would investigate her allegation but added the Pentagon policy allows family members to see the remains of a fallen loved one.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.

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