Two Navy SEALs from SEAL Team 6 are reportedly “persons of interest” in the investigation to determine who strangled and killed an Army Green Beret in Mali, West Africa, in June.
The New York Times first reported on Sunday that Navy criminal authorities are looking into whether or not two members of SEAL Team 6 strangled and killed Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar while in Africa on a secret assignment, according to the Times’ sources, which it cited as military officials.
The incident is highly suspicious, and no one has been charged yet in the soldier’s death, which was ruled to be “homicide by asphyxiation,” or strangulation, according to The New York Times. Two unidentified Navy SEALs were flown out of Mali and placed on administrative leave “shortly after the episode.”
Melgar, who was 34 years old, had served two tours in Afghanistan. He joined the Army in 2012 and was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He was found dead on June 4 in embassy housing in Bamako that he shared with other Special Operations forces assigned in the same area, including two members from SEAL Team 6.
The revelation brings additional scrutiny to West Africa, an area where U.S. troops are deployed to help with training and counterterrorism – but also an area that has been under fire recently after events have officials wanting to know more details about why U.S. troops are in Africa in the first place.
Recently, four U.S. service members – Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, also from the 3rd Special Forces Group – were killed on Oct. 4 in Niger, West Africa, when their 12-person team was ambushed.
The fatal attack has brought to light many aspects of that particular situation, including how terrorists knew intelligence about the troops’ location, and why it took an hour for air support to arrive.
The New York Times on Oct. 29 also reported:
The Navy SEALs’ potential involvement also raised the prospect of a highly unusual killing of an American 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.
Sergeant 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.
No one has been charged in Sergeant 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 Sergeant Melgar was killed. “N.C.I.S. does not discuss the details of ongoing investigations,” Ed Buice, the agency’s spokesman, said in an email, confirming that his service had taken over the case on Sept. 25.
Neither the Army nor the military’s Africa Command issued a statement about Sergeant Melgar’s death, not even after investigators changed their description of the two SEALs from “witnesses” to “persons of interest,” meaning the authorities were trying to determine what the commandos knew about the death and if they were involved.
The uncertainty has left soldiers in the tight-knit Green Beret community to speculate wildly about any number of possible motives, from whether it was a personal dispute among housemates gone horribly wrong to whether Sergeant Melgar had stumbled upon some illicit activity the SEALs were involved in, and they silenced him, according to interviews with troops and their families. Other officials briefed on the inquiry said they had heard no suggestion that the Navy commandos had been doing anything illegal.
When contacted separately by telephone on Saturday, Sergeant Melgar’s widow, Michelle, and his brother, Shawn, declined to comment.