US soldier killed during Somalia operation against Shabaab
Mogadishu (AFP) – An American soldier was shot dead and two others wounded in a night-time raid with Somali forces against Shabaab militants in Somalia, the US military said Friday.
“On May 4, one US service member was killed during an operation against Al-Shabaab near Barii, Somalia, approximately 40 miles west of Mogadishu,” said a statement from the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), adding the US forces were “conducting an advise and assist mission alongside members of the Somali National Army.”
AFRICOM spokeswoman Robyn Mack told AFP that two US soldiers were also wounded.
“The service member was struck by small arms fire while conducting an advise and assist mission alongside members of the Somalia National Army. Two other US service members were wounded in the incident,” she said.
US special forces have been deployed in Somalia for years, training and supporting the Somali military in the fight against the Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab. Drone and missile strikes have also been used against Shabaab commanders and footsoldiers.
A local resident, Moalim Muhidin, said two helicopters were involved in the raid, firing missiles before landing to unload soldiers, after which a heavy firefight broke out.
Abdirisak Farah, a Somali military officer, told AFP that US and Somali commandoes were involved in the overnight raid which targeted a Shabaab unit.
He said there were casualties on both sides, including six Shabaab fighters killed.
– US military engagement grows –
In a statement, the Shabaab said it had repelled the attack and claimed credit for killing the US soldier.
“An air landing operation by US Special Forces was thwarted in Lower Shabelle province and a number of their soldiers were killed and wounded,” the group said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist threats.
Since taking office President Donald Trump has signed a directive loosening the US military’s rules of engagement in Somalia and has authorised the deployment of dozens of additional regular troops from the 101st Airborne Division.
In 1993, during the last major deployment of American troops in Somalia, 18 US soldiers were killed fighting warlords and their clan militias in the capital Mogadishu. The incident became the subject of the book and film “Black Hawk Down”.
Mack said the US casualty late Wednesday was the first US soldier killed “in combat action in Somalia” since 1993.
For the last decade the Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government of Somalia.
The group attacks government, military and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere, often deploying suicide bombers, and has overrun several military outposts, massacring soldiers from the 22,000-member African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.
It has also carried out terrorist attacks abroad including the 2010 World Cup bombing in Kampala, Uganda, and the 2013 Westgate mall and 2015 Garissa University attacks, both in Kenya.
In its statement AFRICOM said the Shabaab “presents a threat to Americans and American interests” by radicalising and recruiting terrorists and fighters in the United States, and by inspiring attacks “against Americans, our allies and our interests around the world, including here at home,” it said.