Niger bomb blast takes out armored vehicle but no US service personnel...

Niger bomb blast takes out armored vehicle but no US service personnel are killed

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U.S. military personnel conduct training using M18 smoke grenades to Forces Armèes Nigeriennes partners at Nigerien Air Base 201, Niger, Dec. 15, 2018. (Staff Sgt. Daniel Asselta/Air Force)

WASHINGTON — A U.S. military vehicle was damaged by a roadside bomb in Niger over the weekend, with the attack occurring near the location of a 2017 fatal ambush of U.S. and Niger forces, Pentagon officials said.

There were no fatalities in the recent attack but personnel “are being evaluated for injuries,” U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement Sunday night.

AFRICOM would not say if the weekend attack would impact the number of troops in Niger or how they will operate. Niger is one of the Pentagon’s key hubs in Africa.

“Due to operational considerations, we won’t go into detail about future operations,” Col. Chris Karns, a spokesperson for AFRICOM, said in a statement. “Our commitment to our partners remains the same.”

U.S. and Nigerien partner forces were conducting a training exercise when the Saturday explosion occurred, according to the Sunday release. According to AFRICOM, an Army Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle activated the bomb on an approach to a firing range in the vicinity of Ouallam in western Niger.

That is close to where four U.S. soldiers perished during the 2017 ambush. That ambush also killed four Nigerien soldiers and wounded two U.S. service personnel.

A similar blast three years ago near Madama left U.S. and Niger troops injured. It remains unclear if that explosion resulted from older unexploded ordinance or was also a roadside bomb.

Following the deadly ambush in Niger last fall, the Pentagon began accelerating the use of drones as opposed to land forces. The U.S. has permission to carry out drone strikes in Libya and Somalia, and recently starting arming drones in Niger. The U.S. is building a $110 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, the largest project in Air Force history.

The drone base is expected to be operational this fall, Pentagon officials have said.

“Niger is a vital partner in the fight against violent extremist organizations,” Karns said in the statement.

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