The United State military confirmed on Sunday that Special Forces soldiers were killed in an ambush that left two dead and six more fighting for their lives.
The two fallen non-commissioned officers were both assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
They have been identified as Sergeants 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez (of San Antonio, Texas) and Antonio Rey Rodriguez (of Las Cruces, New Mexico).
At the time of their deaths, both men, 28, were Staff Sergeants. They have since been promoted posthumously.
“Sgt. 1st Class Gutierrez was a warrior that exemplified selfless service and a commitment to the mission, both values that we embody here in the 7th Special Forces Group,” Col. John W. Sannes, 7th Special Forces Group Commander said in a statement.
Gutierrez enlisted in the Army in 2009 as an infantryman and stationed at Fort Bragg. In 2012, he attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Fort Bragg and was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course, graduating in 2015 as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant. He was previously deployed once to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Our priority now is to take care of his family and teammates, we will provide the best possible care possible during these trying times,” Sannes said.
Rodriguez also enlisted with the Army in 2009 and completed training at Fort Benning in Georgia before it was assigned to the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He deployed eight times with the 75th Ranger Regiment and twice with 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
“Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez was selfless and served honorably; he was certainly among the best in our unit,” Sannes said.
“Here at the Red Empire, we take care of our own, and Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez’ family will forever be a part of us, we will assist them in any way we can to help them through these trying times.”
Prior to the confirmation of those killed in the attack, we brought you the following:
According to a report from Fox, a group of Afghan and U.S. troops were on a mission in the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan when an Afghan soldier allegedly opened fire, gunning down a total of eight American soldiers.
Additional reports claimed that another eight Afghan commandos also died as a result of the ambush.
Initial speculation referred to the ambush as an “insider attack”, but military officials have yet to confirm that report.
2 American soldiers were killed when a person in an Afghan uniform appeared to open fire in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, U.S. officials said. Afghanistan's Defense Ministry said 1 Afghan soldier was also killed.https://t.co/Stupmi9EH2
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 9, 2020
Fox says that the soldier who opened fire was not one of the Afghan soldiers out on the mission with the U.S. forces, but may have been posted up nearby in an attempt to catch the group off-guard.
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Military officials released the following statement after the attack was confirmed.
“A combined U.S. and Afghan force conducting an operation in Nangarhar Province was engaged by direct fire on February 8th. We are assessing the situation & will provide further updates as they become available.”
Unconfirmed reports suggested that the Special Forces group was a 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA), or “A” team.
They say that one of the American forces killed was a Green Beret and another was an enabler, according to a report from SOFREP.
That report also claimed that most of the wounded soldiers were struck by gunfire in their legs, but at least one other had been hit in the face and is now fighting for his life as he remains in critical condition.
Here’s the official report on how the attack went down, according to SOFREP.
“The American element, which was accompanied by a partner force of Afghan Special Operations Forces (ANSOF) had moved to a nearby field to wait for extraction by helicopter.
While they were in a Pickup Zone (PZ) posture, the rogue Afghan policeman attacked. The individual essentially mowed down the Special Forces operators and their partner force element with a heavy machine gun.”
“A Green Beret and a Special Operations Team-Alpha (SOT-A) soldier, who was attached to the team, were killed on the spot. The company executive officer was shot in the chest and is in critical condition; the company Sergeant Major was shot in the face.
The rest of the American WIAs have gunshot wounds to the legs. All casualties have been evacuated to U.S. medical facilities.”
Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesperson for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) said that, “an individual in an Afghan uniform opened fire on the combined U.S. and Afghan force with a machine gun.
The motive behind the attack is unknown at this time. The incident is under investigation.”
Military officials also noted that “the families of the deceased and wounded are being notified. In accordance with DoD policy, the names of the causalities are being withheld until 24 hours after their next of kin notification is complete.”
On Saturday, military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett issued in a statement saying those involved in the most recent attack were “engaged by direct firing.”
In addition to the Taliban, “we are not ruling out ISIS” being responsible for the attack, the defense official told Fox News. Nangarhar Province — where the attack took place — is home to roughly 200 fighters affiliated with the Islamic State.
U.S. special forces soldiers led the mission at the district center in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday afternoon. Typically, special forces will conduct these types of missions with conventional Army infantry soldiers for added security on the perimeter. They also partner with Afghan soldiers.
Since January 1st, six U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan, including the two soldiers killed Saturday. Last year, 22 U.S. service members were killed in action there.
The Trump administration is considering removing another 4,000 troops from the country.