U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson was found with his arms tied behind his back and a major head wound, indicating he may have been captured and executed in Niger last month, The Washington Post reported, citing local villagers.
The Pentagon has released almost no details about Johnson’s death. He was one of four U.S. soldiers and five Niger servicemen killed in an October incident, but Johnson wasn’t found for two days after he went missing. His body was located outside the village of Tongo Tongo, a mile from the site of the Oct. 4 attack on a U.S. Army Special Forces team and Niger troops by some 50 militants believed to be affiliated with the so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
The Post cited local farmer and trader Adamou Boubacar, who said in a phone interview that children had found the body of Johnson, 25. He said Johnson’s wrists were bound and he had an injury in the back of his head, possibly from a bullet, the Post reported.
Tongo Tongo chief Mounkaila Alassane confirmed Boubacar’s account, according to the Post. Alassane said Johnson’s shoes were missing and he was wearing only socks.
The soldier’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, was told not to view her husband’s body when he was returned to the U.S., advice usually given when a body is badly damaged.
Sometime after Johnson’s death, President Donald Trump made what turned out to be a highly controversial condolence phone call to Johnson’s widow. The call “made me cry even worse” because Trump said her husband “knew what he signed up for” when he joined the Army, the widow told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I was very angry at the tone in his voice and how he said it.”
Myeshia Johnson also complained that Trump “couldn’t remember my husband’s name” and referred to him as “your guy,” which the president denied.
Niger villagers told the Post that they also saw the bodies of U.S. Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson and Dustin Wright, dressed in T-shirts and boxer shorts, although it wasn’t known when their clothing may have been removed. The Pentagon said that those men were killed in action and that their bodies were found within hours of the firefight. One body was in a truck and the others were nearby, according to the Post.
Other details of the attack remain hazy. The Pentagon and the FBI are continuing to investigate.
There was no immediate word from the Pentagon or the White House about the Post’s story. A U.S. military official told the Post, “When the Americans received Johnson, his hands were not tied.”