AFRICOM investigates images depicting Niger ambush that killed four US soldiers

From left, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, Fla.; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga. All four were killed in Niger, when a joint patrol of American and Niger forces was ambushed on Oct. 4, 2017, by militants believed linked to the Islamic State group.

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 24, 2018

STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. Africa Command said Wednesday that it is investigating internet pictures and the existence of a video that claim to show the body of a U.S. soldier killed in an October ambush in Niger.

“We are reviewing the post and determining the veracity of the tweet and the assertions that there is an associated video,” AFRICOM said. “We cannot comment further on this issue.”

On Oct. 4, four U.S. soldiers were killed during a patrol with Nigerien forces near Niger’s border with Mali. The contingent was ambushed, but for three months no group claimed responsibility. But in January, a local Islamic State affiliate claimed it was responsible for the attack.

AFRICOM is conducting an investigation into the incident and what went wrong. The findings of the probe are expected within weeks. The roughly 40-person U.S.-Nigerien patrol included about 12 U.S. soldiers.

Killed in the ambush were Staff Sgts. Bryan C. Black, Jeremiah W. Johnson and Dustin M. Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson, all assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

While AFRICOM has intensified operations in Somalia, positioned on the eastern Horn of Africa, Niger has become a focal point in the west. The United States maintains a drone site in Niger, which has emerged as the centerpiece for U.S. operations across a vast expanse of terrain.

A mix of extremist groups operate in the region, including the Nigerian-based Boko Haram and various al-Qaida affiliates.

About 700 U.S. troops are stationed in Niger where work on a new drone facility is underway.

Twitter: @john_vandiver