One of four U.S. soldiers killed in an ambush by Islamist militants last month in Niger was found with his arms bound with rope, suggesting he was captured and executed, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
Two days after the Oct. 4 attack, residents of the remote village Tongo Tongo found the body of Sgt. La David Johnson face-down in a bushy area, with his wrists tied behind his back and a wound to the back of his head possibly caused by a gunshot or hammer, the Post reported.
A U.S. military official acknowledged Johnson’s body was viciously battered but said it was too early to tell if he had been captured and executed, telling the Post that Johnson’s hands were not tied when Americans retrieved his body.
Johnson was found separately, and two days later, from the other slain soldiers. Staff Sgts. Bryan C. Black, Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Dustin M. Wright were found in or near a pickup truck, according to the report.
Five Nigerian soldiers were killed in the ambush as well.
Among the unanswered questions is whether the commando unit was carrying out its assigned mission at the time of the ambush, which also left five Nigerien soldiers dead. Officials think the attack was carried out by a relatively new offshoot of the Islamic State group called the Islamic State in the Sahel.
Pentagon officials have told the victims’ families that their investigation, spanning numerous locations across the U.S., Africa and Europe, won’t be complete until January at the earliest.
President Donald Trump’s consolation phone call to Johnson’s family spurred controversy when a U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson accused Trump of disrespecting Johnson’s widow.
Contributing: Associated Press