“The body of another U.S. service member has been recovered from the area of the attack, bringing the number of U.S. service members killed in this attack to four,” Col. Rob Manning, Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement on Friday.
The soldier was declared missing shortly after Wednesday’s ambush of a joint patrol of U.S. Army soldiers and Nigerien soldiers near the border with Mali that killed three other American soldiers.
The missing soldier’s remains were found by Nigerien forces on Friday “in the vicinity” of the ambush said Col. Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command.
Cheadle said there were “zero indications” that the missing soldier had been captured by the enemy force that attacked the patrol.
The intense hunt for the missing soldier included U.S., Nigerien and French military forces search on the ground and by air. Cheadle acknowledged that “more than a hundred” U.S. military personnel, including special operations forces, had been sent to Niger to assist with a possible rescue operation if the missing soldier was being held captive.
The spokesman said the U.S. “had an idea” of which Islamic extremist group may have been responsible for the attack and said, “We are resolved and stalwart in our efforts to go after those who attacked.”
The three other U.S. Army soldiers also killed in the attack were identified by the Pentagon earlier on Friday. They all served with the 3rd Special Forces Group based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, though not all were Green Berets.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, died from wounds sustained during the ambush that occurred near Niger‘s border with Mali about 125 miles north of Niamey, Niger’s capital.
They were among a squad of 10 to 12 U.S. soldiers on a joint patrol with Nigerien soldiers who came under attack by a force of 50 enemy fighters. It’s unclear which group ambushed the joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol because various extremist groups operate along the Niger-Mali border area, including Ansar Dine, an al Qaeda-affiliated extremist group, and ISIS-West Africa.
Two other soldiers were wounded in the incident and are receiving medical treatment at a U.S. Army hospital in Germany.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Black of Puyallup, Washington, who enlisted in the Army in October 2009, was a Green Beret serving as a Special Forces medical sergeant. His awards and decorations includes the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge – Sharpshooter with Rifle.
Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Lyons, Georgia, enlisted in the Army in July 2012 and was a Green Beret serving as a Special Forces engineer sergeant. His awards and decorations included the Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, and Parachutist Badge.
Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson of Springboro, Ohio, enlisted in the Army in October 2007 and served as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist attached to the Green Beret unit.
His awards includes the Army Commendation Medal (2nd Award), Army Achievement Medal (5th Award), Army Good Conduct Medal (3rd Award), National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Ribbon, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge – Expert with Pistol and Rifle.
There are about 800 U.S. military personnel in Niger helping that country’s counterterrorism efforts against extremist groups. Some of the U.S. forces are part of a drone surveillance mission over Mali that operates out of two bases in Niger.
Others are involved in a training-and-advising mission with Niger’s military to improve its counterterrorism capabilities.