US service member killed in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A U.S. service member was killed Friday in southern Somalia, according to American military officials.

Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad, 26, died of injuries from “enemy indirect fire,” the Department of Defense said in a statement Saturday.

Conrad, who was from Chandler, Arizona, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the statement said.

Four other U.S. service members were wounded when the team came under attack by mortars and small arms from unknown insurgent forces in the area.

The American troops were on a training mission with local Somali and Kenyan forces when the attack occurred.

U.S. Africa Command, which oversees American operations on the continent, issued a statement later Friday confirming the incident, saying it took place in Jubaland, Somalia, about 350 kilometers southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

One U.S. service member received medical treatment in the field while the three other wounded service members were evacuated, the statement said.

In a statement Saturday, U.S. Africa Command said the wounded American service members have been “treated and discharged” and remained in the care of a U.S. medical team in Kenya as they awaited “follow-on transportation.”

President Donald Trump called the soldiers heroes Friday night.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of our serviceman who was killed and his fellow servicemen who were wounded in Somolia (sic),” he tweeted. “They are truly all HEROES.”

A Kenyan soldier working with the Somali forces being advised by the U.S. team was also wounded in the attack, according to three U.S. military officials.

The three wounded U.S. service members and the Kenyan soldier were evacuated by military aircraft and the U.S. troops are in “stable condition,” receiving medical care outside of Somalia, according to one military official familiar with the operation.

The official said the casualties were caused by the enemy mortar fire.

A U.S. surveillance aircraft was also flying overhead during the incident according to two American officials.

Africa Command said the combined U.S., Somali and Kenyan force included some 800 troops and was part of a mission in the area tasked with setting up a permanent combat outpost when they came under attack.

The U.S. military official said “dozens” of American advisers participated in the overall operation, adding that while the al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab was known to have influence in the area, the local village was seen as friendly to the federal government. It was unclear whether all 800 U.S., Kenyan and Somali troops were present when the attack took place.

The official added that there were no plans for Somali forces to leave the combat outpost and that they would maintain a presence there.

There are currently about 500 U.S. troops in Somalia who have been there since 2013 advising local forces battling the al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab. The U.S. estimates that al-Shabaab commands 4,000 to 6,000 active fighters, making it one of the terror group’s largest affiliates.

This is the second U.S. military member to be killed in Somalia since the 1993 Black Hawk down incident that resulted in the deaths of 18 American soldiers. In May 2017, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed while on a mission advising Somali National Army forces.

The casualty, coming less than a year after the death in Niger of four Army special operations soldiers, could raise further questions about the presence of American troops on remote missions in Africa. A Pentagon report found the deaths of the four soldiers, who were ambushed during an operation, were due to a series of military failures, including inadequate training.

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