The Defense Department on Saturday released the name of a Navy SEAL who was killed in Somalia.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, was killed Friday during an operation against al-Shabaab in a remote area about 40 miles west of the capital Mogadishu.
"Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best Navy SEALs," said Rear Admiral Timothy Szymanski, who is in charge of the Navy SEALs. "His sacrifice is a stark reminder that Naval Special Operators are forward doing their job, confronting terrorism overseas to prevent evil from reaching our shores."
Milliken's family asked for privacy in a statement released by Naval Special Warfare Command.
"The Milliken family would like to extend their gratitude to the community for their interest in our beloved Kyle. He was a devoted father and son, a true professional and a wonderful husband," it said. "While we appreciate your interest, we ask you respect our need for privacy."
Milliken was supporting a Somali National Army-led operation with U.S. Africa Command.
Milliken, of Falmouth, Maine, was assigned to an East Coast-based special warfare unit, according to DoD.
His death marks the first U.S. combat death in Somalia in more than two decades as the United States steps up its fight against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab.
In a statement Friday, AFRICOM said two other service members were wounded in the same operation.
A Somali intelligence official said U.S. forces killed at least six people during the raid on a building housing al-Shabab's Andalus radio station at a farm near Dare Salaam village. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the dead included al-Shabab journalists.
The deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region, Omar Mohamud Elmi, told The Associated Press that another goal of the raid was to "surgically target" senior al-Shabab members hiding in the area. He acknowledged "casualties on our side" but said the extremist group lost far more people. He did not give details.
The U.S. special operations troops came under fire after U.S. aircraft delivered Somali forces to the target area, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters. He said the U.S. troops were "a distance back" from the compound, which had been associated with attacks on nearby facilities used by the U.S. and Somali partners.
Al-Shabab via its Shahada News Agency claimed it had thwarted "an air landing operation by U.S. special forces," with a number of them killed or wounded, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.
Both the United States and Somalia in recent weeks have declared new efforts against al-Shabab. President Trump has approved expanded military operations against the extremist group, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities.
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.
Also last month, the U.S. military announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment to the country in roughly two decades. The U.S. Africa Command said the deployment was for logistics training of Somalia's army.
The U.S. in recent years has sent a small number of special operations forces and counter-terror advisers to Somalia and carried out a number of airstrikes, including drone strikes, against al-Shabab.
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. It continues to control rural areas in parts of the country.