An U.S. service member was killed and two were wounded during a counterterrorism operation Friday targeting the al Qaeda-linked terror group al-Shabab in Somalia, marking the first U.S. casualty in the country since 1993.
U.S. Africa Command confirmed the U.S. casualties occurred while supporting a Somali-led operation against an al-Shabab target in the country’s Barii region, roughly 40 miles west of the capital of Mogadishu.
Command officials and those at the Pentagon have yet to identify the service member’s name or which branch he served with, but recent reports claim he was a Navy SEAL. U.S. special operations forces routinely act as military advisers for counterterror missions in Somalia and elsewhere across Africa.
The service member’s death comes days after President Trump ordered an acceleration of American-led operations to dismantle and destroy the al-Shabab terror network in Somalia. American special operations troops have been assisting the Somali military battling al-Shabab since 1993.
“Al-Shabaab presents a threat to Americans and American interests. Al Shabaab’s affiliate, al-Qaeda, has murdered Americans … and attempts to conduct and inspire attacks against Americans, our allies and our interests around the world, including here at home,” according to a command statement, which uses another spelling variation of al-Shabab.
The American special operations team accompanying the Somali assault force on the Barii operation Friday came under immediate fire, once they had been inserted into the target area by U.S. aircraft, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Friday.
The U.S. adviser team did not enter the suspected al-Shabab compound in Barii during the mission, letting the Somali assault team take the lead. The compound was “associated with some [al-Shabab] attacks on facilities that we use and that our Somali partners use nearby,” Capt. Davis said during a briefing at the Pentagon.
Somali intelligence estimates claim six al-Shabab fighters were killed during the raid on the compound, which was used to broadcast the group’s propaganda via the Andalus radio station.
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