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Defense Secretary Dismayed About Lack Of Detailed Info On Niger Attack

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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The Pentagon brass and members of Congress want answers about the ambush that left four U.S. soldiers dead and two wounded.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis says he's dismayed about the lack of detailed information on the attack, while Sen. John McCain wants to subpoena the military to get questions answered.

Army Sgt. La David Johnson and three fellow American soldiers were killed conducting a patrol.

In their pre-mission briefing, they were told there was no enemy contact expected. That was wrong.

The men were members of team of U.S. advisors working with soldiers from Niger, about 40 in total, who set out to meet local village leaders that day.

"The patrol that was attacked last week had actually done 29 patrols without contact over the previous six months or so.  No indication that this was going to occur," said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie.

Yet, they were ambushed by a band of fighters described in an after action report as "well-trained, well-equipped and well-organized." A band which the Pentagon now believes was a local offshoot of ISIS.

The patrol's vehicles were destroyed and they were cut down as they tried to take cover.

French fighter jets arrived about half an hour later, and French troops evacuated the wounded. But somehow Sgt. Johnson was left behind. A beacon emitting from his uniform signaled that he might have survived the initial attack. His body was recovered two days later by local African forces.

Also killed, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson.

"The loss of our troops is under investigation. We in the Department of Defense like to know what we're talking about before we talk and so we do not have all the accurate information yet," Sec. Mattis said. "We will release it as rapidly as we get it, because we are very proud of our troops. As you know we investigate any time we have our troops killed whether it be in training accidents or combat. I don't care if it's in a car accident, the DOD, we investigate the circumstances surrounding."

Members of Congress are calling for an investigation.

"There is not any explanation that has been given. To some extent given the nature of the operation you would understand why it's not something you release a press release about. But we certainly want to learn more about it," said Sen. Marco Rubio. "I know that Congressman Wilson, Congresswoman Wilson who I have known for a long time, I spoke to her last night and one of her main asks is to get more insight into the mission. I know that Sen. McCain expressed the same. So we all most certainly want to learn more not just about what happened in this particular event but more importantly about the broader mission and how it's being  executed, whether they have the appropriate resources and the like for what it is that they are doing. So, it is an important topic and I know there will be a lot of congressional interest in learning more about it."

The U.S. military officials promise full details on the mission and stress American soldiers are never left behind intentionally.

"I would just ask you not to question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order bring everyone out at once," said Sec. Mattis. "We honor our fallen in America and that's all the more I'll say about the Gold Star."

A viewing for Miami Gardens native Sgt. La David Johnson will take place on Friday, October 20th at Christ the Rock Church, located at 11000 Stirling Road in Cooper City from 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

On Saturday, October 21st, his funeral service will take place at the same church from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. followed by his burial at Hollywood Memorial Gardens located at 6301 Taft Street, just across the street from Fred Hunters Funeral Home.

You can help support the Johnson family by donating at their GoFundMe page.

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