A Nigerien man who says he found three of the four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger last month says the bodies were bloodied and stripped of their uniforms.
Adamou Boubacar told VOA's French to Africa service that he was the first to discover the bodies after the October 4 battle between U.S. Army Special Forces and the jihadist militants who ambushed them in the western Nigerien village of Tongo Tongo.
Boubacar, a resident of Tongo Tongo, said he was searching for his wife and children in nearby fields.
"When I came out of the village, I saw the bodies of the three white American soldiers. There was a lot of blood — you cannot imagine," he told the VOA Afrique program.
He said he found two soldiers in a vehicle and the other on the ground.
"Two of them are big, they are also heavy," he said. "The third is also heavy but not as big as the other two. There was one who had tattoos on his arm," Boubacar said.
Stripped of clothing, weapons
VOA asked the Pentagon on Friday to confirm the details. A Pentagon spokeswoman told VOA that an investigation was under way and that there would be no comment until all the facts had been gathered.
Asked whether the American soldiers were wearing their combat gear, Boubacar said one was naked and the others were in their underwear. He said all their weapons and equipment had been taken.
The U.S. military has identified the three soldiers found together on October 4 as Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39.
As for the fourth American soldier — Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, who was found two days later — Boubacar said it was children who discovered his body. "There must be at least two kilometers between where his body was found and the place where the attack took place," he said.
"These young people informed the village chief, who then called the soldiers, who came and they went together to take him," Boubacar said.
A U.S. official told VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb there was "no indication" that Johnson was ever in the custody of hostile forces.
The village chief was subsequently arrested by Nigerien authorities on suspicion of helping to facilitate the attack.
Four Nigerien soldiers and a Nigerien interpreter also were killed in the October 4 ambush, for which a pro-Islamic State group in Niger claimed responsibility.
U.S. troops are in Niger and other West African countries to help regional governments battle jihadist groups that include al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram.
Nicolas Pinault, VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb and VOA national security correspondent contributed to this report.