Isis leader Bilal al-Sudani killed by US military in Somalia
A senior leader of Islamic State was killed in a US special forces raid on a warren of caves in northern Somalia, American officials have said.
The death of Bilal al-Sudani in a gunfight has dealt a significant blow to the terrorist group’s expansion plans in Africa, they said. President Biden authorised the strike this week after consulting with senior defence, intelligence and security officials.
“Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of Isis in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan,” Lloyd Austin, the defence secretary, said in a statement that confirmed Wednesday’s operation.
Ten Isis fighters were also killed, officials said. The Pentagon’s decision to send special forces instead of drones highlights Sudani’s significance. Commandos had rehearsed the operation for months at a site built to replicate the terrain in the mountainous northern Puntland region where he was hiding. Their preparation was similar to that of the Navy Seals’ mission to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011 in Pakistan.
Ten years ago, before he joined Isis, Sudani was involved in recruiting and training fighters for the extremist al-Shabaab movement in Somalia.
“Sudani had a key operational and financial role with specialised skills that made him an important target for US counterterrorism action,” a Pentagon official said. “An intended capture operation was ultimately determined to be the best option to maximise the intelligence value of the operation and increase its precision in challenging terrain,” another official said, but “the hostile forces’ response to the operation resulted in his death”.
The only injury to an American during the raid was when a military dog bit a member of the armed forces, the official said.
The strike is the third by US forces in Somalia since January 20. Biden redeployed hundreds of troops to Somalia last year, reversing President Trump’s withdrawal before he left office. In October Abdullahi Nadir, the co-founder of al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, was killed in Somalia in a joint military operation by local and US forces.
After years of attrition in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria from US-led bombing and special operations, Isis, al-Qaeda and their affiliates have been regrouping in Africa, with pockets of conflict as a result.