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US military kills senior Islamic State official in Somalia

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin  (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

US special operations forces have killed a senior Islamic State group official and 10 other terrorist operatives in remote northern Somalia, the Biden administration announced on Thursday.

The operation carried out on Wednesday targeted Bilal al-Sudani, a key financial facilitator for the global terrorist organization, in a mountainous cave complex.

“This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

President Joe Biden was briefed last week about the proposed mission, which came together after months of planning. He gave final approval to carry out the operation this week, according to two officials who briefed reporters on the operation on the condition of anonymity.

Sudani, who has been on the radar for US intelligence officials for years, played a key role in helping to fund Isis operations in Africa as well as the Isis-K terrorist branch operating in Afghanistan, Austin said.

He had originally been designated the Treasury Department in 2012 for his role with al-Shabab, another terrorist organization, operating in Somalia.

No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, Pentagon officials said. One American involved in the operation was bitten by a military dog, but was not seriously injured, according to an administration official.

US officials provided scant details about how the operation was carried out or the circumstances surrounding al-Sudani's killing. One official said that US forces had intended to capture al-Sudani but that did not prove to be “feasible” as the operation was carried out.

The operation comes days after Africa Command said it had conducted a collective self-defence strike northeast of Mogadishu, the capital, near Galcad. In that incident, Somalia National Army forces were engaged in heavy fighting following an extended and intense attack by more than 100 al-Shabab fighters.

The US estimated approximately 30 al-Shabab fighters were killed in that operation.

The offensive by Somalian forces against al-Shabab has been described as the most significant in more than a decade.