MOGADISHU, Somalia – Four U.S. service members who were wounded in an extremist attack in Somalia that killed one special operations soldier have been treated and released, the U.S. military said Saturday.
A U.S. Africa Command statement said the four were in the care of the U.S. Embassy medical team in neighboring Kenya. They were awaiting transport “for additional medical evaluation.”
The Pentagon said Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad, 26, of Chandler, Arizona, died Friday of injuries sustained from what it called enemy indirect fire. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The names of those wounded were not released.
This was the first public announcement of a U.S. military combat death in Africa since four U.S. service members were killed in a militant ambush in the West African nation of Niger in October.
Friday’s attack in Jubaland is likely to put renewed scrutiny on America’s counterterror operations in Africa.
U.S. troops with Somali and Kenyan forces came under mortar and small-arms fire and one “partner force member” also was wounded in the attack about 350 kilometers southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, the U.S. military said.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, which is based in Somalia and controls parts of the country’s rural south and central regions, claimed responsibility. The group was blamed for the truck bombing in Mogadishu in October that killed more than 500 people and raised concerns about al-Shabab’s ability to build ever-larger explosives.
Friday’s joint operation was part of a multi-day mission including about 800 Somali and Kenyan troops. The U.S. said its personnel had provided advice, assistance and aerial surveillance during the mission.
“This area is called Sanguni, we came here to carry out a special operation designed to liberate this area that is still under the control of al-Shabab fighters,” Lt. Col. Abdi Ibrahim with the Somali armed forces said Friday. “If God wills, we will chase them until we defeat them.”
Associated Press video on Friday showed Somali forces firing weapons from atop pickup trucks in a muddy rural area, and an unidentified U.S. soldier speaking with local residents. A helicopter flew over the area.
President Donald Trump in early 2017 approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, leading to an increase in U.S. military personnel to more than 500 and the launch of dozens of drone strikes. The U.S. had pulled out of the Horn of Africa nation after 1993, when two helicopters were shot down in Mogadishu and bodies of Americans were dragged through the streets.
Another U.S. service member in Somalia was killed in May 2017 during an operation about 40 miles west of Mogadishu.