Tongo Tongo resident recounts deadly attack on US and Nigerien soldiers

After the deadly attack against the Nigerien and American armed forces in Tongo Tongo on October 4, met with a Tongo Tongo resident in the neighboring town of Ouallam. He was in Tongo Tongo at the time of the events and agreed to recount the circumstances of the attack.

At 10pm on Tuesday, October 3, Djibo, a resident of Tongo Tongo, saw car lights not far from the Malian border. The next morning, around 10 am, eight army vehicles, including an ambulance, came outside the village and stopped at a well to ask for water from the women there. As the soldiers drank, a young villager named Hamani went to inform Mounkaila Allassane, Tongo Tongo village chief.

“We were at a naming ceremony in the village,” Djibo explained. “The soldiers did not enter the village, and we came to greet them. There were white soldiers asking questions translated by a Nigerien soldier who asked us where were the “bandits?” The village chief responded: “If you are looking for bandits in this bush, there are many.”

The meeting with the soldiers lasted about 25 minutes, and when they announced their departure, the village chief sent his close collaborator, “an old man” to look for a sheep to offer to the mission. “Just ten minutes after their departure, armed men came on motorcycles. Before the village chief informed the authorities, we heard the first shots. The village chief then informed the governor of Tillaberi, the prefect of Ouallam, the commander of the Tilwa military base and even the air force”, added Djibo.

“When the shots started all the villagers hid in their house,” Djibo explained. “After 15 minutes, there was a silence as if it was over and suddenly; we heard gunshots louder than the first ones of 10 o’clock in the morning. It was around 4pm that two planes arrived. The attackers fled when the planes arrived and everything stopped. When the Nigerian soldiers came right after the planes we went out to see the damages. The attackers undressed all the soldiers they killed.”

“We saw two bodies of white soldiers behind a car abandoned by the attackers. They probably wanted to take away the two bodies of the white soldiers but when the planes came, they left. They took away three army vehicles. Two days after the attack, an American soldier was found dead in the forest between trees by children who informed the village chief. I saw the body; it was naked and injured in the head. On Friday before the prayer, the soldiers arrested the village chief, and up until now we do not know where he is.”

A Nigerien soldier who survived the attack told that the mission was aware of the presence of terrorists around Tongo Tongo. “We did several types of reconnaissance missions without any problem,” he says.

A security source who asked remain anonymous said that the mission was looking for an ex-soldier of the Nigerien National Guard, suspected of being behind the attack on Ouallam and the high security prison of Koutoukalé, 50 km from Niamey where are terrorist suspects are imprisoned. According to the same source, the village chief of Tongo Tongo suspected of complicity is currently detained at the anti-terrorist cell in Niamey.

The US Department of Defense in a statement on Wednesday informed the families of the four American soldiers killed that its investigation of the events should be completed in January 2018.