US military member killed in Somalia on anti-extremist work

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The U.S. military said Friday a service member has been killed in Somalia during an operation against the extremist group al-Shabab as the United States steps up its fight against the al-Qaida-linked organization.

A statement from the U.S. Africa Command said the service member was killed Thursday during the operation near Barii, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of the capital, Mogadishu.

The statement said U.S. forces were conducting an advise-and-assist mission with Somalia’s military.

Both the United States and Somalia in recent weeks have declared new efforts against the extremist group. President Donald Trump has approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.

A Somali intelligence official confirmed the U.S. military operation, saying U.S. forces in helicopters raided an al-Shabab hideout near the Somali capital on Thursday night and engaged with fighters.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the helicopters dropped soldiers near Dare Salaam village in an attempt to capture or kill extremists in the area.

The official said the fighters mounted a stiff resistance against the soldiers.

Somalia’s new Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, last month declared a new offensive against al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia but has claimed responsibility for major attacks elsewhere in East Africa.

Al-Shabab, which was chased out of Mogadishu years ago but continues to carry out deadly attacks there, has vowed to step up the violence in response to the moves by Trump and Mohamed.

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