By Mimi Nguyen Ly
The U.S. military carried out a counterterrorism operation on Jan. 25 in Somalia that killed multiple ISIS terrorists, among them Bilal-al-Sudani, according to the Pentagon.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said that al-Sudani, who is an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISIS’s global network, “was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan.”
“This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” Austin said in a statement on Jan. 26.
“No civilians were harmed as a result of this operation,” he added. “We are grateful to our extraordinary service members as well as our intelligence community and other interagency partners for their support to this successful counterterrorism operation.”
The U.S. Africa Command separately announced on Jan. 26 that the U.S. military had a “successful counterterrorism operation in Somalia,” and said that additional details “will be provided in the coming days.”
“Given the remote location of the operation, the assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command’s operations to promote greater security for all Africans,” the announcement reads.
Al-Sudani allegedly considered another ISIS terrorist by the name of Abdella Hussein Abadigga as a “trusted supporter who could help the ISIS supporters in South Africa become better organized and recruit new members,” the U.S. Treasury said in 2022.
Abadigga had been recruiting young men in South Africa and sent them to a weapons training camp. He also used his position to extort money from members of two mosques in South Africa and sent the funds via a hawala to ISIS supporters in other places in Africa.
Al-Sudani had originally been designated by the Treasury Department in 2012 for his role with al-Shabab, another terrorist organization operating in Somalia.
U.S. officials provided scant details about how the operation was carried out or the circumstances surrounding al-Sudani’s killing, reported The Associated Press. The news agency reported that the operation had targeted al-Sudani “in a mountainous cave complex.”
Offensive Against al-Shabab
The operation comes days after Africa Command said it had conducted a collective self-defense strike northeast of Mogadishu, the capital, near Galcad. In that incident, Somalia National Army forces were engaged in heavy fighting following an extended and intense attack by more than 100 al-Shabab fighters.
The U.S. estimated approximately 30 al-Shabab fighters were killed in that operation.
The offensive by Somalian forces against al-Shabab has been described as the most significant in more than a decade.
Al-Shabab holds a much larger footprint in Somalia than ISIS.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.