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The three U.S. military troops killed in northwestern Africa on Wednesday were most likely ambushed by Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. But with so many other militant groups wreaking havoc in the region along with the rest of the continent, it was not immediately clear who was responsible for killing the Army Special Forces commandos and wounding two others in Niger, the New York Times reported.

In addition to the U.S. troops, five Nigerien soldiers were killed in the ambush.

The sneak attack happened near the border of Mali, which Newsweek has described as “the deadliest country for U.N. peacekeepers and a hub for violent extremists fanning across North Africa.” Mali also happens to be the home to at least five other “extremist groups,” according to the State Department’s 2016 report on terrorism in Africa.

While details were still scarce, the terror-based instability could be attributed at least in part to Donald Trump, whose Africa policy was “incoherent,” Forbes reported last month. The president’s strategy could lead to an all-out war in Africa at a time when the U.S. was already facing a nuclear threat from North Korea and strained relations with Russia.

Aside from Al-Qaeda, other renowned terror groups in Africa include the Islamic State group, more commonly known as ISIS, and al-Shabaab, which has terrorized attacks mainly in Nigeria and Somalia, the latter of which is on Trump’s recently updated “travel ban” list.

All three terror groups have two launched major attacks across the vast continent, prompting Trump to deploy troops there to help counter the offensives. In contrast, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush looked to “train, equip and otherwise support indigenous armies and security forces to fight their own wars instead of having to deploy large American forces to far-flung hot spots,” the New York Times reported in May.

However, “US forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, speaking for US Africa Command, told CNN.

The soldiers troops killed Wednesday were part of joint operations with the Nigerien and French militaries. Those operations were still underway Thursday, Reuters reported.


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