Two Navy SEALs face mur­der probe

Army sergeant Mel­gar was found dead on June 4 in the em­bassy hous­ing he shared with the duo in Mali cap­i­tal

Gulf News - - Americas -

Navy crim­i­nal au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether two mem­bers of the elite SEAL Team 6 stran­gled an Army Green Beret in June while they were in Mali on a se­cret as­sign­ment, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say.

Staff Sergeant Lo­gan J. Mel­gar, a 34-year-old vet­eran of two tours in Afghanistan, was found dead on June 4 in the em­bassy hous­ing he shared in the Malian cap­i­tal, Ba­mako, with a few other spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces as­signed to the West African na­tion to help with train­ing and coun­tert­er­ror­ism mis­sions.

His killing is the lat­est vi­o­lent death un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances for US troops on lit­tle-known mis­sions in that re­gion of Africa. Four US sol­diers were killed in an am­bush this month in neigh­bour­ing Niger while con­duct­ing what was ini­tially de­scribed as a re­con­nais­sance pa­trol but was later changed to sup­port­ing a much more dan­ger­ous coun­tert­er­ror­ism mis­sion against Is­lamic mil­i­tants in the area.

Rep­u­ta­tion at stake

The Navy SEALs’ po­ten­tial in­volve­ment also raised the prospect of a highly un­usual killing of a US sol­dier by fel­low troops, and threat­ened to stain SEAL Team 6, the famed coun­tert­er­ror­ism unit that car­ried out the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Mel­gar’s su­pe­ri­ors in Stuttgart, Ger­many, al­most im­me­di­ately sus­pected foul play, and dis­patched an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer to the scene within 24 hours, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

Agents from the Army’s Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Com­mand ar­rived soon af­ter and spent months on the case be­fore hand­ing it off last month to the Naval Crim­i­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Ser­vice (NCIS).

No one has been charged in Mel­gar’s death, which a mil­i­tary med­i­cal ex­am­iner ruled to be “a homi­cide by as­phyx­i­a­tion”, or stran­gu­la­tion, said three mil­i­tary of­fi­cials briefed on the au­topsy re­sults. The two Navy SEALs, who have not been iden­ti­fied, were flown out of Mali shortly af­ter the episode and were placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave.

The big­gest unan­swered ques­tion is why Mel­gar was killed.

No of­fi­cial con­clu­sion

Nei­ther the army nor the mil­i­tary’s Africa Com­mand is­sued a state­ment about Mel­gar’s death, not even af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tors changed their de­scrip­tion of the two SEALs from “wit­nesses” to “per­sons of in­ter­est”, mean­ing au­thor­i­ties were try­ing to de­ter­mine what the com­man­dos knew about the death and if they were in­volved.

Those who knew Mel­gar de­scribed him as a sol­dier’s sol­dier — he de­ployed to Afghanistan twice on train­ing mis­sions be­tween July 2014 and Fe­bru­ary 2016, ac­cord­ing to his Army ser­vice record — and a de­voted fa­ther of two sons, 13 and 15, who texted and talked via Skype mul­ti­ple times a day with his wife while serv­ing over­seas.

Mel­gar is sched­uled to be buried at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery on Novem­ber 20.

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