- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2017

A key leader in the al Qaeda-affiliated terror group Al-Shabaab was killed during a counterterrorism operation targeting the group’s main stronghold in western Somalia.

Moalin Osman Abdi Badil, head of the group’s Lower Shabelle faction, and three Al-Shabaab members were killed in a raid led by Somali forces in the Barii region, roughly 40 miles west of the capital of Mogadishu, according to a statement by the country’s information ministry.

An Al-Shabaab stronghold in Barii was the target of a joint U.S. and Somali raid earlier this week, which ended with the death of a Navy SEAL. The death of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken was the first U.S. casualty in Somalia since 18 American soldiers were killed during the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993.

His death comes days after President Trump ordered an acceleration of American-led operations to dismantle and destroy the Somali-based terror network. Defense Secretary James Mattis is scheduled to attend a counterterrorism summit, led by British Prime Minister Theresa May, focusing on the Al-Shabaab threat later this week.

“It is a country that’s been through very tough times,” Mr. Mattis told reporters while en route to a senior-level ministerial with members of the international coalition battling the Islamic State. “And the United Kingdom is coordinating leading the effort to try to find a way forward with the new president in position.

“It’s a tough proposition to take Somalia forward, but that is the purpose of [this] conference, to determine how best we can do so,” he added.

American special operations troops attached to U.S. Africa Command have been assisting the Somali military battling al Shaabab since 1993.

“Al-Shabaab presents a threat to Americans and American interests,” according to a command statement released after Senior Chief Milliken’s death. “Al Shabaab’s affiliate, al Qaeda, has murdered Americans … and attempts to conduct and inspire attacks against Americans, our allies and our interests around the world, including here at home.”

In July, American drones took out a top Al-Shabaab commander responsible for coordinating attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, who at one point led the group’s security and intelligence wing known as the Amniyat, was killed while traveling through the southern part of the east African country, the Pentagon said at the time.

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