In the first confirmed US kinetic operation since President Trump designated Somalia an active war zone in March 2017, one US Navy serviceman was killed and two or three others injured during an operation against al Shabaab in Somalia on May 5th (local time), the first declared American service member death in combat in the country since 1993.
US forces were conducting an advise and assist mission alongside members of the Somali National Army (SNA), according to US Africa Command.
Pentagon Spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said US Navy SEALs and their SNA partners were flown in by helicopter, but came under fire “in the early phase of the mission” after landing near an al Shabaab compound, the target of the mission. The compound was associated with attacks on nearby facilities used by both US and Somali forces, he said.
“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. “This was a Somali mission,” he stressed.
However, Brig. Gen. David J. Furness, the commander of the military’s task force for the Horn of Africa, said that the US and Somali forces were travelling in a single group when they were attacked.
According to Fox News, the target was Andalus Radio, reportedly an al-Shabab propaganda radio station, based in a farm village 40 miles west of Mogadishu. Somali sources told VOA that the village was Dar es Salam, located between the small towns of Barire and Mubarak, reportedly both of which were al Shabaab controlled and located in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia.
Helicopters carried the Navy SEALs and the Somali Danab commando team from Ballidogle airport to a point near Barire, from which they continued to the target on foot, a Somali official told VOA. A small Somali ground force from the town of Afgoye was also sent to help, the official said.
Fox News said it appears the group were ambushed as they neared the radio station, with a Somalia official telling VOA that al-Shabab brought in reinforcements and encircled the approaching commandos.
“Al-Shabab later claimed it had been tipped off. It’s unclear if that was actually the case, as the Pentagon would not comment. Pictures purportedly taken by Andalus Radio in the aftermath of the battle and viewed by Fox News showed pools of blood on the ground, pressure bandages, a boot and tactical glove, and U.S. military equipment.
Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed, and two others were wounded. Navy SEAL Scott Taylor, now retired and a Republican congressman from Virginia, got a text message before the news went public about the loss of his friend and teammate. They had served together in Iraq.
‘I’ve known him and his family very well. He’s got two kids,’ Taylor told Fox News, ‘Kyle was a stellar operator. Very smart, witty and funny. Hard not to like.'”
Al Jazeera cited an al Shabaab source as claiming that more than one US serviceman was killed: “‘[The US soldiers] came in helicopters. Our Mujahideen fighters responded to the attack,” al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Mus’ab told Al Jazeera. ‘We killed several American fighters. We also wounded many. We captured weapons from them too. They ran back to their helicopters.’ In the past, al-Shabab has exaggerated the number of soldiers it has killed during clashes.”
Milliken was the first U.S. service member to die in Somalia since the 1993 U.S. Army mission to capture a warlord led to the deaths of 19 U.S. Rangers and Delta Force special operators, two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters shot down – and the end of the international mission in Somalia. Years of anarchy were followed by the ascent of radical Islam.
The U.S. said the May raid was nevertheless a success because it “resulted in the death of three al-Shabab operatives, including Moalin Osman Abdi Badi,” a regional leader of the terror group. Somali officials said they seized radio station equipment.
For the Trump Administration, the operation was part of a renewed push in the region to establish footholds of stability where radical Islamist terrorism cannot flourish.”
Pentagon spokesman Davis said the threat was “quickly neutralized”. By this time Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken had however been killed. A US military official told VOA at least two other Navy SEALs and an interpreter were wounded. New York Times said two others were wounded, including the Somali-American interpreter.
A senior official in Lower Shabelle region reportedly said a raid on a building housing the radio station killed eight al Shabab fighters and radio station equipment was seized.
A Mogadishu-based security source told Reuters that US troops, alongside Somali forces, were hunting an al Shabaab commander identified as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, also known as Mahad Karate, near the Shabelle river. Another security source told them the raid took place in Darusalam village, where he was supposedly believed to be hiding.
Three al Shabaab operatives, including Moalin Osman Abdi Badil, a regional leader of the terror group, were killed, Somali officials said. This was confirmed by Davis, who reportedly said Badil was responsible for gathering information on troops movements in order to support attacks on Somali and African Union forces.
Various official US press releases said the attack took place on both May 4th and May 5th, which could be due to local time differences between Somalia and the US.
The incident occured at approximately 1:00 am local time.
Sources (18) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the village of Darusalaam (دار السلام), for which the coordinates are: 1.9230721, 44.7868291. According to Fox News the target was ‘Andalus Radio’, an Al Shabab radio station. A structure that looks like a radio tower can be seen at these coordinates in northern Darusalaam: 1.924246, 44.783306. Sources report that the fighting took place near Andalus Radio, Airwars was unable to verify the location further.