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U.S. Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Lyons, Ga.. Photo: Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne / U.S. Air Force via AP

One of the first to arrive on the Niger ambush scene, a Nigerien soldier, as well as a U.S. official "directly familiar" with after-action reports, told CNN that the vehicles in the 12-member Green Beret–led team were separated from each other. Four U.S. service members were killed as a result of the gun battle that followed.

What happened: Per the Nigerien soldier on the scene (although there are still gaps following the classified briefing Pentagon officials provided to lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday):

  • The attackers were equipped with eight vehicles and "dozens" of fighters and hit the first two vehicles and then the convoy split.
  • He said the U.S.–Nigerien unit was a "light force," which he said was not adequately equipped in manpower and firepower for a high-risk area. "I was surprised that the Americans would go out into the zone with such a light convoy and no air cover, no drones to keep watch over them," he told CNN.

How their location may have been blown: An official told NPR villagers participated in a "set up" in which they told ISIS–affiliated troops the location of their patrol.Why it may have taken the soldiers an hour to request support, per Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who briefed reporters Thursday: "It may have been that they assessed that the situation was not significant enough to call for help. It may have been that they were under fire so intense they were unable to get to their communications equipment."

Whether the soldiers were prepared adequately: Similar patrols in the same general area had not encountered any enemy forces over the last 6 months, per McKenzie. He added that the commanders on the ground judged an encounter "unlikely" to happen.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.