Four American forces died in an attack blamed on a group led by Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, one of several extremist factions in the vast semi-desert area

When four US special forces soldiers died in an ambush earlier this month in scrubby desert in western Niger, attention was suddenly focused on one of the most remote and chaotic war zones on the planet.

The US troops had been embedded with a larger unit of Nigerien troops and were attacked as they left a meeting with local community leaders a few dozen kilometres from the remote town of Tongo Tongo.

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