By Jim Sciutto
Thursday November 26, 2020
U.S. Army soldiers, on a mission to bolster security after an attack by Somalia's al- Shabaab militants that killed three Americans, left a transport plane in January at an airfield in Kenya. PHOTO: US AIR FORCE/REUTERS
(CNN)—A CIA officer was killed in Somalia last weekend, according to a former senior administration official with knowledge of the matter. The officer was wounded in an operation in the country and later died, the source said.
The identity of the officer has not been made public but the source said the officer was a former Navy SEAL.
The death comes as the Trump administration is making plans to withdraw more than 600 troops from Somalia in the near future.
US Special Operations forces have been embedded with the Somali National Army, assisting in the fight against the militant group Al-Shabaab. As well as advising on airstrikes and ground assaults, the Navy SEAL-led team's primary task is to train and build Somalia its own elite light infantry force.
The CIA declined to comment. The New York Times first reported the death of the officer.
As is tradition, the officer's death will lead to another star being placed on the CIA's Memorial Wall in the atrium of CIA headquarters. The wall pays tribute to the men and woman who lost their lives in the line of duty for the spy agency. The CIA tweeted in September that the wall featured 135 stars.
While US military advisers in Somalia typically seek to let Somali forces take the lead during operations, there have been incidents where US forces have found themselves in combat situations.
In September, a US service member was injured in the country when Al-Shabaab attacked US and Somali forces. And in August, the US military carried out an airstrike targeting Al-Shabaab fighters in the vicinity of Dar as Salam, after local US-backed forces came under fire from a building.
A Pentagon Inspector General report released this year described the conflict in Somalia as being at a "stalemate," with US-backed Somali government forces continuing to battle Al-Shabaab, with the insurgent group continuing to target Somali and international forces in the country's southern provinces.
Al-Shabaab is estimated to command between 5,000 and 10,000 fighters, according to estimates from Africa Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Though US military advisers have been in Somalia since at least 2013, the effort got a major boost under the Trump administration, which volunteered to undertake the Danab advisory mission in 2017 in addition to expanding drone strikes,
This story has been updated with additional information Wednesday.
CNN's Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.