A U.S. service member was injured in Somalia Monday morning in an attack by the jihadi group al-Shabab using a vehicle born explosive and mortars, according to U.S. Africa Command.
The service member is in stable condition and receiving treatment for injuries not considered life-threatening, said Air Force Col. Christopher Karns, an AFRICOM spokesman.
One al-Shabab fighter was killed during the attack, Karns said.
The incident took place in the vicinity of Jana Cabdalle, Somalia, said Karns. U.S. and Somali forces were conducting an advise, assist and accompany mission when the jihadis attacked using a vehicle employed as an improvised explosive device and mortar fire.
The U.S. regularly conducts advise and assist missions with Somali partner forces. The collective efforts of the U.S. and Somalia place pressure on al-Shabab, limiting their ability to extend their reach and movement.
“Al-Shabab remains a dangerous enemy,” said Karns. “Continued pressure is being placed on this al-Qaida-affiliated threat to limit its ability to expand and export violence, terrorism, and crime more broadly.”
Karns pushed back against Shabab suggestions that a U.S. service member was killed in the incident.
“There are several false reports claiming the death of a U.S. soldier,” he told Military Times. “False claims consistently continue to be part of al-Shabab’s playbook as they seek to weaponize information and employ traditional tools of the tradecraft of terror, to include truck, car, and roadside bombs. They are ambitious and look to expand their hate and violence in Somalia and beyond. "
Army Spc. Henry “Mitch” Mayfield Jr., 23, died while supporting Operation Octave Shield, the name for the mission focused on targeting militant groups in Somalia.
He was killed during an attack that included mortars and small arms fire, breached the base’s perimeter and damaged six aircraft. There was no immediate information released regarding how Mayfield was killed during the attack.
Mayfield was assigned to 1st Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group, out of Fort Rucker, Alabama. His battalion provides expeditionary air traffic control and airfield management.
Mayfield and two DoD contractors died after the attack on Manda Bay Airfield, which is roughly 150 miles south of the Kenya-Somalia border. Two other Defense Department members were also injured in the attack, but remain in stable condition, according to U.S. Africa Command.
The U.S. continues to put pressure on the group.
AFRICOM last month said it killed six al-Shabab extremists with an airstrike in Somalia after the al-Qaida-linked group attacked Somali forces while U.S. forces were nearby.
The U.S. Africa Command statement said the Aug. 26 airstrike was carried out near Darasalam village in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region after al-Shabab fighters attacked from a building in the area. The statement said three al-Shabab fighters were wounded.
There have been 46 airstrikes against al-Shabab so far this year, Karns told Military Times.
“We have placed considerable pressure on the network, and have permanently removed several of their key leaders,” he said. “The US presence and activity is helping to contain the threat and prevent its spread across borders. Al-Shabaab has clearly communicated its desire to strike America but does not have the capability to do so due to the pressure placed on them”
The group “is an enemy America needs to take seriously,” said Karns. “It’s long-term security depends on it and benefits from the U.S. assistance provided today. Rooting al-Shabab out at the source prevents its spread elsewhere. "
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.