A United States Navy SEAL was killed and two troops wounded in a clash with al Shabaab militants in Somalia, US officials said on Friday.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the man killed was a US Navy SEAL. It was not immediately clear whether the wounded US forces were also from the elite military unit.
The White House has granted the US military broader authority to carry out strikes in Somalia against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, the latest sign President Donald Trump is increasing US military engagement in the region.
US troops were hunting an al Shabaab commander near the Shabelle river alongside Somali special forces, a Mogadishu-based security source told Reuters.
The raid took place at Darusalam village, where Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, known as Mahad Karate, was believed to be hiding, said another security source. Warsame is the deputy leader of al Shabaab and US authorities have offered $5 million for information that brings him to justice.
“Warsame played a key role in the Amniyat, the wing of al-Shabaab responsible for assassinations and the April 2, 2015 attack on Garissa University College that resulted in 150 deaths,” said a statement on the Rewards for Justice website, which is run by the US State Department.
It was not clear yet if Warsame was the target of the raid, the security source said.
Residents of Darusalam village said the gunfire lasted for around 10 minutes. “Last night, helicopters hovered over us and we were scared. Then late at night, there was fighting,” resident Mohamed Hassan told Reuters.
US Africa Command said US personnel were working alongside members of the Somali military.
“Although US forces are not engaged in direct action (in Somalia), advise and assist missions are inherently dangerous,” added Robyn Mack, a spokeswoman at the US military’s Africa Command.
Somalia has been shattered by civil war that began when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other.