US special operations forces have killed a senior Islamic State official and 10 other terrorist operatives in remote northern Somalia, the Biden administration announced Thursday.
Wednesday’s operation targeted Bilal Sudani, a key financial facilitator for the global terrorist organization, in a mountainous cave complex.
“This action makes the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and demonstrates our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement .
President Biden was briefed last week on the planned mission, which came together after months of planning. He gave final approval this week after a recommendation by Austin and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to two senior administration officials who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Sudan, which has been on the radar of US intelligence officials for years, has played a key role in helping finance Islamic State operations in Africa as well as the ISIS-K terrorist branch operating in Afghanistan, Austin said. .
The US Treasury Department alleged last year that Sudan worked closely with another operative, Abdella Hussein Abadigga, who recruited young men in South Africa and sent them to an army training camp.
Abadigga, who was in charge of two mosques in South Africa, used his position to extort money from members of the mosques. Sudan regarded Abadigga as a reliable supporter who could help Islamic State supporters in South Africa become better organized and recruit new members, according to Treasury.
Sudan was first named by the Treasury Department in 2012 for its role with the Shabab, another terrorist organization operating in Somalia. He helped foreign fighters travel to a Shabab training camp and facilitated funding for violent extremists in Somalia, according to a senior administration official.
No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, Pentagon officials said. One American who was involved in the operation was bitten by a military dog but was not seriously injured, according to an administration official.
US officials have provided few details about how the operation was carried out or the circumstances surrounding Sudan’s killing. One official said that US forces intended to capture Sudan but that was not possible as the operation was carried out.
The operation comes days after the US Africa Command said it conducted a joint self-defense strike northeast of the capital Mogadishu. In that incident, Somali army forces were engaged in heavy fighting after a widespread and intense attack by more than 100 Shabab fighters.
The US estimated that around 30 Shabab fighters were killed in that operation.
Somali forces’ offensive against the Shabab has been described as the most significant in over a decade.
The Shabab has a much larger footprint in Somalia than the Islamic State.