An American soldier killed during an ambush in Niger with three comrades wasn't captured alive by the enemy or executed at close range, the AP has learned. A military investigation found evidence he apparently fought to the end. Dispelling a swirl of rumors about how Sgt. La David T Johnson, 25, of Florida, died, the report has determined that he was killed by enemy gunfire from an offshoot of the Islamic State group. A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were ambushed in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Officials familiar with the investigation say Johnson was hit as many as 18 times by a volley of machine gun rounds and that he was returning fire.
The bodies of three US Green Berets who died during the firefight were located on the day of the attack, but Johnson's remains were found two days later. The gap in time led to questions about whether Johnson was taken away by the enemy. The report found there were no indications he was shot at close range or had been bound or taken prisoner, as several media reports have suggested. Officials say that during the attack, Johnson and two Nigerien soldiers became separated with the others as they tried to get to a vehicle to escape. The report concluded that Johnson, who was athletic and a runner, was in the lead and got the farthest away, seeking cover in the brush. Officials say there were a number of enemy shells around Johnson, and evidence that he appeared to fight to the end.