U.S. Soldiers Killed in Niger Seen Battling ISIS in New Video of Their Last Moments Alive

Updated | The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has released a graphic video showing fighters from its African Sahel branch ambushing U.S. soldiers and engaging them in a firefight that left four Special Forces soldiers and five local forces dead in Niger last October.

Most of the footage featured in the nine-minute video, entitled, "Assault of the Brave Against the Army of the Americans: the Battle of Tongo Tongo," was retrieved by the jihadis from a camera on the combat gear of the dead Green Berets, giving a grim look into the last moments of the elite troops as they attempted to fend off the assault, killing as many as 21 militants believed to be members of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. The clip opens with footage of the militants riding on the back of trucks bearing the flag of ISIS and heading toward what may have been the site of the ambush.

Related: U.S. Military Investigating Suspected ISIS Video of Dead American Soldiers in Niger Ambush

A narrator then calls on Muslims to support the jihadis' self-proclaimed caliphate as excerpts of a video show members of the Jama Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, a coalition of West African Islamist militant groups, pledging allegiance to ISIS, as well as a clip of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and images of U.S. soldiers both alive and dead.

"Fight them, God will punish them by your hands and disgrace them, and give you victory over them, and heal the breasts of a believing people, and remove the rage from the believing people's hearts," the narrator said, quoting the Quran before scenes from the attack were shown.

A still image from the ISIS video "Assault of the Brave Against the Army of the Americans" shows U.S. Special Forces attempting to flee an ambush from up to 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters near the border village of Tongo Tongo, Niger, October 4, 2017. Social Media

After the narration cuts, the video shows a group of what appears to be ISIS militants rushing into battle as a pro-ISIS hymn dominates the audio. It then switches to the perspective of the 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers involved in the ambush. As one group of soldiers uses a vehicle as cover, another joins in the fight and they attempt to withdraw from the attack, firing into the bush where the jihadis are located.

The soldier whose camera the video is shot from stumbles, but recovers and attempts to aid another soldier who appears to have already been killed. The driver of the vehicle exits to help drag the body toward the vehicle and provide cover fire before the two soldiers try to flee. The soldier wearing the camera again falls and does not stand again. The jihadis continue to fire at him, even as they approach his motionless body at point-blank range and blood is seen spilling onto the ground. In the final shot of the video, the jihadis show off the bloodied corpses of two of the soldiers.

The four U.S. soldiers killed that day were Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, Sergeant La David Johnson and Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright. Two U.S. personnel were also wounded, including Captain Michael Perozeni. Five Nigerien troops were killed and eight more wounded.

The team of about 11 U.S. forces and 30 of their Nigerien counterparts was reportedly returning to base from a mission, possibly to kill or capture ISIS in the Greater Sahara leader Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, when it came under fire.

A still image from the ISIS video "Assault of the Brave Against the Army of the Americans" shows U.S. Special Forces attempting to flee an ambush from up to 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters near the border village of Tongo Tongo, Niger, October 4, 2017. Social Media

The soldiers' deaths sparked a national debate about U.S. military presence in Niger—where nearly 800 U.S. troops were believed to be deployed in an effort to check the activities of ISIS in the Greater Sahara and other, larger militant groups associated with Al-Qaeda, such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar al-Dine and Al-Mourabitoun—as well as in Africa as a whole. The mother of slain Sergeant La David Johnson also criticized President Donald Trump after claiming the president told her that her son "knew what he signed up for" in a phone call. Trump disputed the quote.

In response to the attack, The Pentagon said Monday it "is aware of alleged photos and IS propaganda video from the October 4, 2017 terrorist attack in Niger. The release of these materials demonstrates the depravity of the enemy we are fighting," using an alternative acronym for ISIS, according to Agence France-Presse.

Many of the details surrounding the ambush remain unclear, including the jihadis' potential prior knowledge of the team's whereabouts, the soldiers' lack of backup and the location of their bodies. The Pentagon has not yet released an official account of the attack, but it may do so later this week, according to CBS News. ISIS acknowledged the attack in an October issue of its weekly Al-Naba newsletter, but did not claim responsibility until January.

Later that month, Newsweek spoke with Mohammed Mahmoud Abu al-Maali, who claimed to be in possession of the video on behalf of Mauritanian outlet Agence Nouakchott d'information. That same day, AFRICOM confirmed it was investigating reports of the video after Maali tweeted about it in Arabic and French.

This article has been updated to include a statement from the Pentagon regarding the proliferation of the ISIS video, which purportedly shows the deaths of U.S. forces in Niger last October.