The American soldier found dead in Niger after an Islamic State-affiliated ambush fought to the death and was never actually captured, according to an explosive new report.
A U.S. military investigation into the early October ambush in Niger has determined that Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, whose body was recovered days after the attack, was killed in a firefight with Islamic militants and not captured, like other accounts have suggested, The Associated Press reports.
The report stated that Johnson was killed by rifle and machine gun fire as he was attempting to flee the scene of the Oct. 4 ambush, that targeted an Army special forces unit working with local Nigerien government forces.
Approximately 50 Islamic militants conducted the attack using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Four U.S. soldiers were killed and two more wounded. Johnson was apparently hit 18 times by M-4 rifles and Soviet machine guns, while he was attempting to get closer to a vehicle for cover. That attempt failed. He was separated from the main group and was gunned down.
Johnson’s body was only recovered two days after the attack, in contrast to the bodies of the three Green Berets, that were discovered the same day.
The two-day gap between the attack and recovery gave rise to some speculation by two villagers that Johnson was captured, but the U.S. military’s investigation has come to a different conclusion. The Islamic militants were likely informed about the Army unit’s location by villagers after the unit had stopped at the village to resupply, the report also states.
U.S. Africa Command has been conducting the investigation on the ground in Niger and will soon report a draft of its findings to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who runs Africa Command.
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