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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

Fatal Car Crash In Mali Reveals Secret U.S. Army Presence

A fatal SUV crash may have exposed the secret presence of U.S. Army commandos in the African country of Mali - a month after the United States suspended military relations with the war-torn country.

The Washington Post reports three U.S. Army commandos and three Mali civilians were killed when their Toyota Land Cruiser plunged off a bridge and into the Niger River.

A Department of Defense statement released soon after the April 20 accident explained the Americans' presence in Mali this way:

The U.S. military members were in Mali as part of an on-going engagement prior to the unrest that occurred in Mali on March 21. Though U.S. military engagement has been suspended in Mali, those U.S. military members in country remained to provide support to the U.S. Embassy.

But according to the Post:

At the very least, the April 20 accident exposed a team of Special Operations forces that had been working for months in Mali, a Saharan country racked by civil war and a rising Islamist insurgency. More broadly, the crash has provided a rare glimpse of elite U.S. commando units in North Africa, where they have been secretly engaged in counterterrorism actions against al-Qaeda affiliates.

The Washington Post has identified the three soldiers killed as Master Sgt. Trevor J. Bast, 39, based at Fort Belvoir in Virginia; and Capt. ­Daniel H. Utley, 33, and Sgt. 1st Class Marciano E. Myrthil, 39, based at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is investigating the accident. So far, investigators don't suspect foul play caused the accident, but they haven't ruled it out, either.

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