AfriCom Investigates Video Purporting to Show Bodies in Niger Ambush

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson  (U.S. Army photos)
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson (U.S. Army photos)

U.S. Africa Command is investigating social media posts of images and a video purporting to show the bodies of three of four U.S. troops who were killed in an ambush in Niger last October.

At a Pentagon briefing Thursday, Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, said, "I'm aware of the reports" on the images and the video, but "we have not confirmed the authenticity" of the posts.

"To my knowledge, no one [in the Pentagon] has seen the video," she said.

In a statement late Wednesday, AfriCom said the command is aware of the posts on Twitter "from the Oct. 4 ambush in Tongo Tongo, Niger. We are reviewing the post and determining the veracity of the Tweet and the assertions that there is an associated video."

AfriCom declined further comment, citing the ongoing Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation into the ambush being led by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, chief of staff to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AfriCom commander.

The Twitter user who posted the images claimed to have received the images and a 10-minute video from a group affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria operating out of Mali, possibly the one called the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara.

The Twitter user said, "The video shows one side of the attack, the American dead. Some photos were shot by an American soldier, but ISIS took them after the photographer was killed," Military Times reported.

The troops who were killed were part of a 12-man team from the Army's 3rd Special Forces Group, which joined a patrol with about 30 Nigerien troops.

In addition to the Article 15-6 investigation, the FBI is looking into the national security implications of the ambush that killed Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida; Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.

During the firefight, La David Johnson became separated from the rest of the group. His body was not recovered until two days after the initial attack.

The ambush was followed by a bitter dispute between the White House and Johnson's widow Myeshia, and Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, a close family friend.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly denied that he was disrespectful in a condolence phone call to Myeshia Johnson.

The results of the Article 15-6 investigation are expected to be released later this month or early February.

In a November news conference, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said that once the results are in, his top priority will be to share the findings with the families of the fallen.

"That's my primary target audience right now. We'll address it fully" in public once the families are informed, he said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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