An ISIS leader and 10 of his associates were killed by a declared US counterterrorism operation in the Almiskad mountains of Bari region, Somalia on January 25, 2023. One US service member was injured during the operation when a dog bit him.
AFRICOM initially released a statement that “the U.S. military conducted a successful counterterrorism operation in Somalia.” The statement only included the assessment that no civilians were injured or killed, adding that “additional details will be provided in the coming days.”
The next day, the Department of Defense released a statement from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III that “On January 25, on orders from the President, the U.S. military conducted an assault operation in northern Somalia that resulted in the death of a number of ISIS members, including Bilal-al-Sudani, an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISIS’s global network. Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan. This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad. No civilians were harmed as a result of this operation.”
During a Q&A with two senior administration officials, one official provided details that the operation took place in a mountainous cave complex in northern Somalia and resulted in the killing of 10 ISIS associates in addition to al-Sudani. According to the official, American forces were prepared to capture al-Sudani but “the hostile forces’ response to the operation resulted in his death”. The operation had been planned for months, including extensive rehearsals at sites “specifically built to recreate the terrain where the operation ultimately needed to take place” but mentioned that the Somalia government was “notified” of the operation, indicating that they were not involved and that they may not have been forewarned. Somali government security adviser Hussein Sheikh Ali stated that the death of al-Sudani was “very positive and welcoming,” adding that Islamic State was not as big a threat as al-Shabab in Somalia, but that al-Sudani was “dangerous”.
The same official reiterated that there were no injuries among civilians and that the only injury was to a US service member who was bit by their own canine. A reporter later pointed out that this senior official was the Homeland Security Advisor, questioning whether the operation target was a direct threat to the US homeland.
Another senior administration official described al-Sudani as supporting ISIS’s expansion and activities in Africa and beyond, including providing funding to ISIS around the world, specifically the ISIS Khorasan branch in Afghanistan. al-Sudani had been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2012 for his role in al-Shabaab before joining ISIS. Security researcher Dino Mahtani told BBC that al-Sudani was “an important figure in the attempt by this faction of Islamic State to build a trans-national network straddling Central Africa and East Africa and now with links down to Mozambique” and that his groups were also involved in weapon-smuggling. Analysts told BBC that the fact that US troops were sent rather than a less risky drone strike indicates the importance of al-Sudani.
All Africa News reported that “airstrikes” had taken place in the Almiskad mountains, which is an area where ISIS affiliates have training and hideout camps. This was likely reported prior to the US announcing their involvement. US officials declined to provide details on the service members that were involved in the raid. However, the New York Times reported that US Special Operations commandos carried out the operation, pointing out that the US troops stationed in Somalia were only there to provide training to Somali forces.
BBC pointed out that the raid came just a week after ISIS published a rare propaganda video from Somalia showing footage of clashing with Somali government forces in the mountainous radian in north-eastern Bari, the same area the raid took place.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
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from sources (2) [ collapse]
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III
On January 25, on orders from the President, the U.S. military conducted an assault operation in northern Somalia that resulted in the death of a number of ISIS members, including Bilal-al-Sudani, an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISIS’s global network. Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan. This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad. No civilians were harmed as a result of this operation. We are grateful to our extraordinary service members as well as our intelligence community and other interagency partners for their support to this successful counterterrorism operation.