VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC/USA TODAY) -- A U.S. service member who was killed during an operation in Somalia on Friday was a Navy SEAL based out of Virginia Beach.
The Department of Defense said Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine, was killed during an operation against al-Shabaab on May 5 in a remote area approximately 40 miles west of Mogadishu.
Milliken is the first American to die in combat in the African country since 1993.
According to U.S. Africa Command, U.S. forces were conducting an advise-and-assist mission with Somalia’s military against the militant group al-Shabab.
Two American troops were also injured in the attack, Africa Command said.
The U.S. special operations troops came under fire after U.S. aircraft delivered Somali forces to the target area, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters. He said the U.S. troops were “a distance back” from the compound which had been “associated with some attacks on facilities that we use and that our Somali partners use nearby.”
A Somali intelligence official said U.S. forces killed at least six people during the raid on a building housing the al-Shabab extremist group’s Andalus radio station at a farm near Dare Salaam village, according to the Associated Press. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the dead included al-Shabab journalists.
Al-Shabab via its Shahada News Agency said “an air landing operation by U.S. special forces was thwarted in Lower Shabelle province and a number of their soldiers were killed and wounded,” the SITE Intelligence Group reported.
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.
President Donald Trump recently approved an order that expanded U.S. authority in Somalia, allowing U.S. aircraft to attack militants during offensive operations without presidential approval. Previously, the Pentagon generally had the authority to launch attacks only in emergency situations to defend its forces.
Africa Command officials said Thursday's attack was not related to the new rules. "The expanded authorities were not applicable to this situation," said Patrick Barnes, a Africa Command spokesman.
It was the first American combat death in Somalia since the early 1990s when the U.S. intervened in the country in an effort to tamp down sectarian warfare and relieve a growing humanitarian disaster after the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991.
The intervention became a symbol of the perils of U.S. interventions when two helicopters were downed in Mogadishu and the bodies of American service members were dragged through the streets. The images were broadcast worldwide and the U.S. withdrew its combat forces from the country.
The U.S. has been supporting Somalia's military with about 50 U.S. advisers in a mission that began several years ago.
The U.S. Africa Command statement said the U.S. military is supporting Somalia and its regional partners "to systematically dismantle this al-Qaeda affiliate, and help them to achieve stability and security throughout the region as part of the global counterterrorism effort."
Contributing: Doug Stanglin and Jim Michaels, USA TODAY; the Associated Press