The Department of Defense released the name of a Navy SEAL who was killed in the support of a Somali National Army-led operation with U.S. Africa Command.
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.
He was assigned to an East Coast-based special warfare unit.
Milliken is the first U.S. combat death in the country in more than two decades - as the United States steps up its fight against the al-Qaida-linked organization in a country that remains largely chaos.
"We do not believe there has been a case where a U.S. service member has been killed in combat action in Somalia since the incident there in 1993," U.S. Africa Command spokesman Patrick Barnes said Friday. The United States pulled out of Somalia after that incident in which two helicopters were shot down in the capital, Mogadishu, and bodies of Americans were dragged through the streets.
In a statement, the U.S. Africa Command said the service member was killed Thursday during the operation near Barii, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Mogadishu. The statement said U.S. forces had been conducting an advise-and-assist mission with Somalia's military.
New York Times first reported that he was a SEAL team member.
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.
Both the United States and Somalia in recent weeks have declared new efforts against al-Shabab. President Donald Trump has approved expanded military operations against the extremist group, 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.
The extremist group, 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.
With the Associated Press