A group of Canadian soldiers will carry on with its training of Nigerien forces despite a deadly ambush by an ISIS offshoot earlier this month that killed four U.S. Special Forces commandoes in the West African nation of Niger, the Canadian military said.
A small contingent of Canadian soldiers from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group based in Valcartier, Quebec, is expected to proceed with training for the Nigerien military as part of a little-known capacity building mission codenamed Operation NABERIUS, said Capt. Vincent Bouchard, a spokesman for Canadian Joint Operations Command Headquarters.
“For sure we always monitor the situation and adjust the force protection measures in consideration of the threats that would be in the area that we operate but that’s no different than in any other mission,” Bouchard told Radio Canada International in a phone interview from Ottawa.
As part of Op NABERIUS Canadian soldiers provide training to the Forces armées nigériennes (FAN) twice a year – in spring and fall. The training consists of two- or three-month serials that cover things like individual soldier skills, marksmanship, combat first aid, patrolling and checkpoint procedures.
However, the exact time and location of the training mission are kept hush-hush for operational security reasons, Bouchard said.
“We have conducted one serial last spring,” Bouchard said. “I’m not going to confirm or deny that we are conducting training in the fall, we are going to go active and talk about it when and if our people are redeployed to Canada not to put our personnel at risk.”
Operation NABERIUS training used to be conducted by Canadian Special Forces but a year ago the responsibility for training was transferred to the Canadian Army. About two dozen soldiers from the French-speaking 1st Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, based in Valcartier took part in training this year.
Heavy fighting between government troops and Boko Haram militants in 2015 forced Canadian trainers to briefly pull out of the town of Diffa, which sits on the border with Nigeria and the heartland of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Oct. 4 ambush of U.S. Army Green Berets happened on the opposite side of the country about 200 kilometres north of Nigerien capital of Niamey, near the border with Mali.
At least four Nigerian soldiers were also killed when the U.S. Special Forces soldiers, accompanied by about 30 Nigerien troops were attacked by about 50 heavily armed fighters of the al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group that has pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State.