A mysterious April 20 car crash in Mali led to the deaths of three U.S. Special Operations forces and three Moroccan prostitutes travelling with the commandos, reports Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post.The incident is odd since the U.S. suspended military and humanitarian work there in late March after the Malian president was overthrown in a military coup, and the Obama administration has not publicly acknowledged the clandestine intelligence operations in which the men were seemingly involved.
The crash happened less than a week after the revelation of a prostitution scandal involving the U.S. Secret Service in Colombia, which was the biggest scandal in its history.
The three commandos were crossing a bridge in Bamako, the capital of Mali, in a rented 2010 Toyota Land Cruiser when they lost control of the vehicle and landed in the Niger River. Poor road conditions and excessive speed were cited by Army officials as the likely cause of the crash, according to Whitlock.
A senior Army official and a U.S. counterterrorism consultant briefed on the incident told the Post that the women killed in the wreck were identified as Moroccan prostitutes who had been riding with the soldiers. However, a statement by U.S. African Command (AFCOM) said that they “have no reason to believe these women were engaged in acts of prostitution.”
AFCOM said that the three men were among “a small number of personnel” who had aided the Malian military before the coup and had remained in the country to provide support for the U.S. Embassy. An official at the U.S. Embassy in Mali said that the men were helping to wind down civil-affairs programs after the coup.
Whitlock notes that Special Operations forces, which include members of the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force, work openly to distribute humanitarian aid and train local militaries at the same time as being hailed as the new cornerstone in U.S. global counterterrorism strategy.