By Carla Babb
Al-Shabab militants in Somalia have killed a member of the US special forces and wounded three other members of an American team assisting Somali soldiers, US officials said. The Navy SEAL who died in the operation against al-Shabab was the first American killed in the war-torn country since a deadly battle in 1993 – the clash that inspired the movie Black Hawk Down.
White House officials said President Donald Trump sent his deepest condolences to the family of the victim, along with his appreciation for the efforts of all men and women in the US military. Small-arms fire killed the Navy SEAL in a small village 65 kilometers west of Mogadishu. A U.S. military official told VOA at least two other Navy SEALs and an interpreter were wounded in the attack in the village of Barire, west of Afgoye.
U.S. Africa Command, responsible for all American military operations on the continent, said the US forces came under attack during an advise-and-assist mission alongside members of the Somali National Army. “This was a Somali mission,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday. American forces were “operating in support of” the Somali units, in an attack targeting a compound associated with attacks on nearby facilities used by both U.S. and Somali forces, he added.
A senior official in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region said soldiers raided a building that houses Radio Andalus, al-Shabab’s official radio station. The attack killed eight al-Shabab fighters, the official said, adding that radio-station equipment reportedly was seized. “We helped bring [the Somali soldiers] in with our aircraft, and we were there maintaining a distance back as they conducted the operation,” Davis said at the Pentagon. “That’s when our forces came under fire.” Al-Shabab said its fighters “foiled” an attack by U.S. troops and killed an unspecified number of “enemy soldiers” Friday. The group’s military spokesman, Abdulaziz Abu Musab, told Radio Andalus the militants knew about the attack in advance and were prepared for it.
At the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the president was fully briefed on the action in Somalia by his national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster. “First and foremost [we] want to express our deepest condolences and our deepest appreciation for all of the men and women in the military and the ultimate sacrifice that they paid – particularly this soldier and all of the others,” Sanders said. “The president has made it certainly a major priority to protect the men and women who protect us. That’s one of the reasons he wanted to put so much emphasis on rebuilding the military, and that was a priority for him in the budget. And again, our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to all of the men and women in uniform and, particularly, this family.”