1 American Soldier Killed, 4 Wounded In Somalia Firefight

By Ikenga Chronicles June 8, 2018

1 American Soldier Killed, 4 Wounded In Somalia Firefight

An American Special Operations forces soldier was killed and four others were wounded on Friday in a southwestern Somalia gun battle against fighters for the Islamic extremist group the Shabab, three Defense Department officials said.

Their deaths marked the first combat casualties that have been publicized in Africa since an ambush in Niger in October.

The American forces were alongside Somali troops at a small outpost near the town of Jamaame when they came under small arms and mortar fire, Defense Department officials said on Friday.

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The American team was backed up by armed surveillance aircraft overhead, the officials said. The Shabab, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, claimed credit for the attack; it has been fighting American forces in East Africa for more than a decade.

In a post picked up by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremist message boards, the Shabab said that its fighters had struck a joint American-Somali base on the outskirts of Kismayo, mounting what it called a “fierce attack.”

The roughly 500 American troops in Somalia are mostly composed of a number of Special Operations units, including Army Green Berets, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs spread across the country.

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Friday’s fight, the extremist group said, came a day after the Shabab overran a Somali National Army base near Baidoa and ambushed other Somali soldiers in Mogadishu’s Huriwa district.

The attacks come as the American military looks to drawn down counterterror forces in Africa as part of a larger Pentagon plan to pivot its focus on combating Russia, China and other great powers.

It was the second American combat death in Somalia in the past 13 months. Last May, a member of the Navy SEALs was killed and two other American service members wounded in a raid that the Pentagon initially described as an “advise, assist and accompany” mission.

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Defense Department officials said at first that Somali government troops had led that operation, and the Shabab militants had attacked American forces that were hanging back. But American military leaders later acknowledged that the Navy SEALs were operating alongside the Somali military when they launched the raid.

Friday’s attack also follows the Oct. 4 ambush in Niger that killed four American soldiers, their interpreter, and four Nigerien troops. That ambush has opened a debate in Washington over the American military mission in Africa. The Pentagon has carefully monitored the spread of radical Islamic jihad across Africa but insisted that American troops are there to train and partner with local forces, not necessarily to fight.

SOURCE: NEW YORK TIMES

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