US service member killed in Somalia

A U.S. special operations service member died Thursday during a mission against al-Shabaab near Barii, Somalia, according to U.S. Africa Command.

U.S. forces were conducting an advise-and-assist mission about 40 miles west of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, with members of the Somali National Army when the group came under attack in the middle of the night.

U.S. and Somali forces were apparently attacked shortly after arriving at the target location, possibly by helicopter. The forces were ultimately able to return fire and suppress the attack, a U.S. official told ABC News.

No Somali forces were hurt but a Somali interpreter and two U.S. service members were injured.

The mission was not being carried out under the new expanded authorities granted by the Trump administration for the U.S. military to conduct offensive counterterrorism airstrikes in Somalia targeting al-Shabaab, according to the U.S. official.

“Al-Shabaab presents a threat to Americans and American interests,” U.S. Africa Command said in a statement today. “Al Shabaab’s affiliate, al-Qaeda has murdered Americans; radicalizes and recruits terrorists and fighters in the United States; and attempts to conduct and inspire attacks against Americans, our allies and our interests around the world, including here at home.

“U.S. forces are assisting partner forces to counter al-Shabaab in Somalia to degrade the al-Qaeda affiliate’s ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America,” the statement added.

Al-Shabaab is the largest faction working to topple the Somali government, seeking to establish a society based on Islamic law, known as Sharia.

The group pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012. Several years later, the group debated whether it wanted to change its allegiance to ISIS, which was gaining prominence in Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, al-Shabaab decided not to affiliate itself with ISIS, although a small faction did break away and pledge its…

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