A U.S. service member died of injuries suffered during a weekend raid against al-Qaida militants in Yemen, the military said today.
Three other American troops were wounded in the operation on Saturday against members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the militant organization that has remained a potent threat amid an extended civil conflict in Yemen, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement.
The incident marks the first time a member of the U.S. military has died in a combat situation since President Donald Trump took office a little more than a week ago. Trump has pledged to wage a more aggressive campaign against militant groups worldwide.
A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an incident whose details have not been made public, said the slain service member was killed in a firefight with militants. The operation, which took place in a remote desert area of Yemen’s Shabwa governorate, had been planned for months and aimed to obtain intelligence information, including computer material, that was believed to be linked to planning for external attacks.
U.S. officials said they could not confirm reports of a high civilian death toll, but said that 14 militants were killed in the operation.
According to a report from the SITE Intelligence Group, AQAP reported in a message on Telegram that U.S. forces launched a helicopter attack and a ground raid on a Yemeni village, killing dozens of civilians. AQAP denied that any militants were killed and said the young daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was killed in a 2011 drone strike, was one of the civilians slain.
AQAP reported that the operation took place in al-Bayda governorate, which borders Shabwa, SITE said. The group also reported it had shot down an American attack helicopter.
U.S officials said that an Osprey, a tilt-rotor military aircraft, went down in a “crash landing” at a staging area near the site of the operation, but said the mishap was not believed to be caused by militant fire. The disabled Osprey was then intentionally destroyed. Two service members were injured in that landing.
U.S. Special Operations forces have maintained a small footprint in Yemen focused on AQAP, which has been one of the most active branches of al-Qaeda and has been involved in plots to strike the West. The American forces work in close partnership with special operations troops from the United Arab Emirates.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Missy Ryan