Report: 2 SEALs under investigation in homicide of Green Beret
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 29, 2017
STUTTGART, Germany — Two Navy SEALs are under suspicion in connection with the death of a Green Beret operating in the western African nation of Mali, where authorities say Staff Sgt. Logan J. Melgar was strangled in a June 4 attack.
Melgar, 34, was found dead in his hotel room in Mali’s capital of Bamako. Military medical examiners determined the cause of death was “homicide by asphyxiation,” The New York Times reported, citing unnamed military sources.
Soon after the incident, two Navy SEAL Team 6 members were whisked out of the country and put on administrative leave while military law enforcement carries out its probe, the Times reported.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which was unavailable Monday for immediate comment, is now leading the investigation. U.S. Africa Command confirmed Monday that an investigation is ongoing.
Melgar was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C., the same unit as the team involved in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger, where four soldiers died. The group is responsible for many of AFRICOM’s special operations missions on the continent.
The Times reported that Melgar’s superiors in Stuttgart suspected foul play from the start and sent an investigator to the scene within 24 hours.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command led the case until it transferred authority last month to NCIS. No charges have been filed yet, military officials told the Times.
The military made no announcement at the time of Melgar’s death, a break with precedent, which typically involves a statement on a servicemember’s death abroad even if details are scant.
AFRICOM said decisions on when to announce casualties are left to service components, but that “operational security and force protection can inform that process.”
On Oct. 6, Melgar was honored at his high school alma mater in Wolfforth, Texas, during a football homecoming game.
“Staff Sgt. Melgar did what most only dream of and excelled at every turn. His life was epic,” a Melgar family member told MyWolfforthNews.com. “He is missed dearly every single day, but his legacy lives on through his family and his son Braxton.”
Melgar’s death again spotlights the military’s previously low-profile operations in western Africa, which were thrust into the public eye during the ambush earlier this month of U.S. forces near Mali’s border, in Niger.
The military has yet to offer a clear timeline of events of the ambush or explain how forces there became separated, with one troop missing for nearly 48 hours.
The incident has sparked questions in Washington about whether the military is taking on too much risk in volatile terrain with too few resources.
AFRICOM is increasingly under scrutiny for its missions in western Africa, which officially are focused on aiding local militaries in their fight against a range of Islamic extremist groups. In Niger, the U.S. has 800 troops.
In Mali, the military has had an irregular presence over the years, with troops serving as advisers to Malian authorities. There is currently a “small team” of U.S. servicemembers in Mali, who are coordinating and sharing information with international counterparts fighting al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, AFRICOM said.
Members of Congress have voiced complaints that they are ill-informed about military activities in the region and the potential risks facing U.S. troops there.
There have been five U.S. combat deaths this year in Africa — four in Niger and one in Somalia. Those are the only cases in which U.S. forces have been killed in action during the past 10 years, according to AFRICOM.
There have been numerous other noncombat deaths due to malarial infection, driving accidents and other causes. AFRICOM, however, said it does not maintain a complete list of noncombat casualties.