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Soldier in bloody Niger mission had warned of gaps, defense officials say

WASHINGTON — The leader of an ill-fated team of US soldiers in Niger last fall warned before the mission that his troops did not have the equipment or intelligence necessary to carry out a kill-or-capture raid against a local militant, according to preliminary findings of a continuing Defense Department investigation.

In a departure from normal lines of authority, the report concludes, the Oct. 4 mission was not approved by senior military officials up the chain of command in West Africa and Germany. Instead, it was ordered by a junior officer, according to two Defense Department officials. Four US soldiers and five Nigeriens were killed when the unit was ambushed.

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The two officials said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the Joint Chiefs chairman, are troubled that two low-level officers are being blamed for the botched mission instead of senior commanders who should be aware when US troops are undertaking a high-risk raid.

The two Defense Department officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been released.