The Pentagon is warning media outlets not to publish a video released by the Islamic State over the weekend purportedly showing a deadly ambush of American troops last fall in the African nation of Niger.
“We ask the media and the public and all responsible entities not to aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images, these videos. You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda if you do that,” Col. Rob Manning told reporters on Monday.
The video appears to show the bodies of some of the four American special operations troops who were killed near the village of Tongo Tongo in October while on a counterterrorism mission. At least some of the footage appears to be from the perspective of one of the soldiers’ helmet-mounted cameras.
The possible existence of such a video first came to light in January, as POLITICO reported at the time.
But Manning declined to confirm its authenticity or that it featured helmet cam footage from an American soldier.
“It’s an ISIS propaganda video that’s poorly produced and spliced together,” he told reporters at the Pentagon. “We didn’t produce the video. We can’t confirm something that we didn’t produce.”
The Oct. 4 ambush has been under investigation by U.S. Africa Command for months. Manning said Monday that the probe is complete and “being reviewed by the secretary of Defense.”
The firefight stirred controversy over the nature of the mission of the special operations team that was ambushed, the level of support it had and President Donald Trump’s handling of a phone call with the widow of one of the soldiers, Sgt. La David Johnson. Johnson’s body was initially missing after the firefight.
Islamist insurgents have distributed video of dead American troops as propaganda in the past — including when they overran a Navy SEAL reconnaissance team in Afghanistan in 2005.
The Pentagon warning about further distributing the Niger video is unlikely to sway many news organizations. For example, CBS News has already run with it.