Somalia: US soldier killed, 4 wounded in firefight

  • Somalia: US soldier killed, 4 wounded in firefight

Somalia: US soldier killed, 4 wounded in firefight

A U.S. commando killed in a Somalia firefight against al-Shabaab militants was identified as U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, 26, of Chandler, Arizona, the Department of Defense said late Saturday.

The incident is the first known death of a US servicemen in Africa since the ambush in Niger last October.

The attack occurred in Jubaland, where a large force comprising about 800 Somali, Kenyan and USA troops were working to clear a large area of Al-Qaeda-aligned Al-Shabaab fighters.

The October attack in Niger raised questions in Washington about the USA military presence across Africa as the Trump administration focuses counterterrorism efforts on a range of groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

The Shabab said in a post translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremist message boards, that its fighters had attacked a joint American-Somali base near Kismayo, mounting what it called a "fierce attack".

Conrad, and the USA special operations forces were fighting alongside about 800 troops from the Somali National Security Forces and Kenyan Defense Forces when they were attacked about 2:45 p.m. Friday by mortars and small arms fire.

A "partner force" service member was also wounded, the statement added.

Traditionally, US presidents have been wary of intervening in Somalia since 18 special forces soldiers died fighting militias in Mogadishu in 1993, a battle dramatised in the film Black Hawk Down.

Another U.S. servicemember in Somalia was killed in May 2017 during an operation about 40 miles west of Mogadishu. "We also injured four United States soldiers", Abdiasis Abu Musab said. The U.S. military said its personnel had provided advice, assistance and aerial surveillance during the mission.

A U.S. Africa Command statement said the four were in the care of the U.S. Embassy medical team in neighboring Kenya.

And at least in Niger, U.S. Africa Command's General Thomas Waldhauser said commanders had been ordered to be "far more prudent" about the missions that were approved.

-Somali force north of Kismayo came as USA military officials have been considering plans to cut the number of US special operations forces deployed to Africa.

Whether U.S. forces in other parts of Africa have been asked to take similar precautions is not clear.

Friday's attack in Jubaland is likely to put renewed scrutiny on America's counterterror operations in Africa.

The population in the region had historically supported the government, and the Somali forces had prepared for this mission by coordinating heavily with and securing the support of local authorities ahead of time, officials said.