Pentagon releases video depicting recovery of US soldiers' remains in Niger

Thursday , May 17, 2018 - 11:35 AM

Dan Lamothe

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

The Pentagon provided Thursday its most detailed account yet of the disastrous operation in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers last year, releasing a video that has been shown to Congress and includes drone footage of the recovery of the remains of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was missing for two days.

The 21-minute video includes about 11 minutes of footage that was released May 10 as the Defense Department published an eight-page summary of its months-long investigation by U.S. Africa Command. At the time, the Pentagon withheld the remainder of the video, which already had been declassified and shown to members of Congress.

U.S. troops recovered Johnson’s remains Oct. 6, after they were discovered by Nigerien villagers. Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, who oversaw the investigation, said it is believed that Johnson was found in the approximate location where he was killed. He had been shot up to 20 times, including at least once in the head, a U.S. military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the investigation.

The 11-minute video released last week included a recreation of the ambush and ended with the death of Johnson, after he and two Nigerien soldiers were left alone on the battlefield and forced to flee their vehicle under heavy fire. All three of them were killed, with Johnson pursued 450 yards on his own after the Nigeriens were cut down.

The newly released video, first reported by CNN, includes that video recreation, but also an explanation of how the operation came together and more details about its aftermath. At one point, Nigerien soldiers arrived in a rescue force and mistakenly opened fire on U.S. soldiers for 48 seconds. No one was injured, the video states.

The surviving U.S. soldiers escaped through a swamp under fire.

“They wrote short messages to loved ones on personal devices, believing that they would soon be overrun,” the video states, in another detail that was not widely known.

The Pentagon released the video while requesting that the media not publish clips that show Johnson’s remains, even though the drone footage is grainy and recorded at a distance. The Washington Post reviewed the footage, and has withheld the last couple minutes out of respect for the Johnson family.

The other Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright. Black and Wright were Special Forces soldiers. The other two soldiers were support soldiers assigned to their 3rd Special Forces Group team.

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Video: The Pentagon released video May 16 detailing the recovery of Sgt. La David Johnson’s body in Niger, two days after he was killed in an ambush by ISIS militants in October 2017.(Department of Defense)

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