WASHINGTON — Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in a hail of gunfire, hit as many as 18 times as he took cover in thick brush, fighting to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger, The Associated Press has learned.
A military investigation has concluded that Johnson wasn’t captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died.
The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State offshoot, according to U.S. officials familiar with the findings. The Oct. 4 ambush took place about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the African nation’s capital. Johnson’s body was recovered two days later.
Johnson was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg.
The military says his body was found after an extensive search. The bodies of the three other Fort Bragg soldiers were recovered shortly after the attack, which also killed four Niger military members. Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, age 35, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, age 39, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, age 29, died from wounds sustained during enemy contact.
The U.S. and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed.
U.S. special operations forces have been working with Niger’s military in the fight extremists in the African region.
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