Islamic State leader killed in US raid in Somalia, officials say

A risky military raid by US special operations forces on a cave complex in northern Somalia on Wednesday night killed Bilal al-Sudani, a senior Islamic State leader and organizer, US officials said.

Al-Sudani was killed in a shootout along with 10 other fighters, officials said. There were no US casualties in the raid, officials said, stressing that there were no civilian casualties either – although officials later clarified that one of the US servicemen had been bitten by a dog serving in the US forces.

Officials said President Joe Biden authorized the raid earlier this week after speaking with his national security team. The US forces who carried out the raid had rehearsed it several times in a mock-up that simulated the target area – a technique similar to what US special operations forces did before the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden at a complex in Pakistan. .

US forces had prepared for the possibility of capturing al-Sudani, the officials said, “but the response of forces hostile to the operation resulted in his death.” Officials declined to say whether the timing of the operation indicated there was an imminent threat of attack to the United States.

“On January 25, on the orders of the President, the US military carried out an assault operation in northern Somalia which resulted in the deaths of a number of ISIS members, including Bilal-al-Sudani , a leader of ISIS in Somalia and a key enabler for ISIS’s global network,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering ISIS’s growing presence in Africa and funding the group’s operations around the world, including in Afghanistan,” Austin continued.

“This action makes the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” he said, praising “ our extraordinary service members as well as our intelligence community.” and other inter-agency partners for their support of this successful counter-terrorism operation.

PICTURED: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a meeting with Albanian Minister of Defense Niko Peleshi at the Pentagon, January 26, 2023, in Washington.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a meeting with Albanian Minister of Defense Niko Peleshi at the Pentagon, January 26, 2023, in Washington.

Alex Brandon/AP

US officials who briefed reporters on the raid described al-Sudani as a notorious extremist.

“(He) has a long history as a terrorist in Somalia. Prior to joining ISIS, he was designated by the US Treasury Department in 2012 for his role in (the) Shabaab, helping foreign fighters get to an Al Shabaab training camp, facilitating the funding foreign violent extremists in Somalia,” one of the two US officials told reporters.

“This operation was the result of extraordinary coordination and careful planning between all elements of the United States government over many months,” one of the officials said, noting seeing for the first time the first intelligence on al-Sudani’s whereabouts months ago.

“A planned capture operation was ultimately determined to be the best option to maximize the intelligence value of the operation and increase its accuracy in difficult terrain,” an official said. “At the same time, and based on extensive past experience, we recognize that even an intentional capture operation could well lead to the death of al Sudani – as it ultimately did.

Officials said targeting terrorists remained one of the government’s top priorities.

“Through this operation and others, President Biden has been very clear: We are committed to finding and eliminating terrorist threats against the United States and the American people, wherever they may be hiding, however far away- they. This is the context for understanding yesterday’s operation,” one of the officials said.