One U.S. special operator was killed and another four service members were wounded on Friday during a mission in Somalia against al-Shabaab, a terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, defense officials have announced.
The U.S. forces were on a patrol with Somali and Kenyan troops when they were attacked with mortars and small arms in southern Somalia, AFRICOM said.
One coalition service member was wounded.
One of the wounded United States service members got medical care in the field and the other three were medically evacuated for additional treatment.
The statement did not identify the attackers but said a larger force of about 800 Somali and Kenyan troops were conducting a multi-day operation against al-Shabab militants about 350 kilometers (217 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, when the attack occurred.
The most recent USA casualty in Somalia occurred a year ago, when a member of the Navy SEALs was killed in a nighttime attack in Somalia.
Witnesses said the attack took place near the town of Sanguni, while the US and Somali troops were digging trenches and setting up other defenses. "In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia we will continue to degrade the functional networks of ISIS in Somalia and al-Shabaab as these groups pose a direct threat to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region".
The U.S. military and others have expressed concern about the 21,000-strong AU force's plan to withdraw by 2020 and hand over security responsibilities to Somali forces, saying the local troops are not ready.
The U.S. has about 500 troops in Somalia, mostly in Special Operations.
The U.S. has about 1,000 special operations personnel in Africa.
The troops had been on a mission to clear al-Shabab from contested areas as well as villages the armed group's fighters controlled "and establish a permanent combat outpost" to expand the reach of the Somali state, the U.S. military's Africa Command said. He was the first USA casualty in Somalia since the Black Hawk Down incident in 1993. Officials worry the extremist group is in the midst of a resurgence after losing much of the territory it once held in Somalia and many of its fighters in the last several years. A Pentagon investigation of the incident produced a highly critical report.
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