TOOMBS CO., GA (WTOC) - We're learning Thursday night that a U.S. Army Green Beret killed in Africa was from Toombs County.
Family has confirmed that Dustin Wright was one of three soldiers killed in Niger. The 29-year-old was a 2007 graduate of Toombs County High School. He joined the Army in 2012 and was stationed at Fort Bragg. He'd served two tours in Niger, returning there just last month.
According to U.S. Africa Command, a partner nation member was also killed and two other service members were injured in an ambush attack.
The Army Green Berets and local forces were walking on patrol when they were suddenly ambushed. Initial indications are that up to 50 fighters, likely affiliated with ISIS, sprang the attack.
"Clearly, there is a risk for our forces in Niger," said Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Joint Staff Director.
Green Berets typically operate in a 12-man team and often face significant danger.
"They'll have only the small arms that they can carry with them," said Col. Steve Warren, Ret. CNN Military Analyst.
French Super Puma helicopters moved in to provide covering fire as they evacuated the dead and wounded. French, U.S., and Nigerien forces continued military operations to hunt for the attackers. It happened near the border with Mali - a critical crossroads for terrorist activity. There are approximately 800 U.S. troops in Niger, first deployed during the Obama administration.
"They have been there for many years, frankly, and what they are trying to do is help support the Nigerien government and other governments in that region," said Col. Warren.
In West Africa, groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS are actively trying to increase their own cash flow to fund future attacks. U.S. intelligence agencies believe ISIS is attempting to infiltrate the gold mining industry in Niger to sell on the black market and use smuggling routes north to get easier access to Europe and the west.
"We are working with the multinational joint task force located in Niger to enable regional cooperation and expand partner capacity to ensure Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa do not further destabilize the region," said Lt. Gen. McKenzie.
In U.S. Africa Command's most recent update, the two injured service members are said to be in stable condition. The Department of Defense will not release the names of the three soldiers killed until all families are notified.
Wright's funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized.