By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper
WASHINGTON, June 9, 2018 — 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.
This is the second US military member to be killed in Somalia since the 1993 Black Hawk down incident that resulted in the deaths of 18 American soldiers. In May 2017, a US Navy SEAL was killed while on a mission advising Somali National Army forces.
The casualty, coming less than a year after the death in Niger of four Army special operations soldiers, could raise further questions about the presence of US troops on remote missions in Africa. A Pentagon report found the deaths of the four soldiers, who were ambushed during an operation, were due to a series of military failures, including inadequate training.
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.
Africa Command said the combined US, Somali and Kenyan force included some 800 troops and was part of a mission in the area tasked with setting up a permanent combat outpost when they came under attack.
The American team was backed up by armed surveillance aircraft overhead, the officials said. The Shabab, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility 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.”
There are currently about 500 US troops in Somalia who have been there since 2013 advising local forces battling the al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab. The US estimates that al-Shabaab commands 4,000 to 6,000 active fighters.