Two villagers said that Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four soldiers killed in Niger during an ambush in October, was discovered tied up and with a large wound at the back of his head.
One of the villagers, Adamou Boubacar, found the body after some children stumbled on its location about a mile from where U.S. troops were originally ambushed. Johnson was laying face down, hands tied and appeared to have suffered a serious head wound, increasing the chances that Johnson was captured by Islamic State-affiliated militants before being executed, The Washington Post reports.
Boubacar then reportedly told the village chief, who called Nigerien forces to retrieve the body.
Village chief Mounkaila Alassane confirmed the account to The Washington Post.
“The back of his head was a mess, as if they had hit him with something hard, like a hammer,”Alassane said. “They took his shoes. He was wearing only socks.”
A U.S. military official said that while Johnson’s body was badly wounded, his hands were not tied when sent over to the Americans. This official cautioned that it’s important to wait until the official Pentagon investigation into Niger is complete to come to any real conclusions on the matter.
Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, has criticized the lack of information surrounding the events in Niger. The U.S. military advised her not to look at the body, which is a suggestion usually made when the body has been mangled.
U.S. military and FBI investigators are now on the scene in Niger to determine exactly what happened in the operation gone wrong in early October, which was supposed to be little more than a low-risk reconnaissance mission in conjunction with local Nigerien forces. Instead, U.S. troops were ambushed by up to 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters with sophisticated weapons. Four U.S. troops died, but the remains of Johnson were only found a whole two days later.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect Johnson was a support solider assigned to a special forces unit.
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