US forces kill senior ISIS leader in northern Somalia

Special operations forces had originally hoped to capture Bilal Al Sudani 'to maximise the intelligence value of the operation'

US President Joe Biden ordered the operation after several security briefings. Getty / AFP
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US special operations forces have killed senior ISIS leader Bilal Al Sudani and other members of the terror group in a helicopter raid in northern Somalia, Biden administration officials said on Thursday.

President Joe Biden ordered Wednesday's mission after “months” of briefings from top intelligence agencies, including the CIA.

Senior administration officials told reporters that Al Sudani was assessed to have supported the militants' expansion and activities across Africa as well as the ISIS-K branch in Afghanistan, one of the group's most lethal affiliates.

The US Treasury Department designated Al Sudani in 2012 for his role in the militant group Al Shabab, in which he helped foreign fighters travel to training camps and facilitated financing for foreign violent extremists in Somalia, one official said.

Al Sudani “had a key operational and financial role with specialised skills which made him an important target for US counterterrorism action”, the official said.

Washington had prepared to capture Al Sudani in hopes of maximising intelligence gathering from the operation, “but the hostile forces' response to the operation resulted in his death”.

The special forces operation also resulted in the deaths of 10 ISIS members in an “extremely remote” and “mountainous” region of Somalia.

Officials said the US and its allies and partners were safer after the operation and said Mr Biden was committed to hunting terrorists “wherever they are hiding, no matter how remote”.

The US military's Africa Command said in a statement that no civilians were injured or killed in the operation. One US servicemember was bitten by a dog.

The ISIS-Somalia network operates primarily between Yemen and Somalia and has ties to other terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and Al Shabab, according to the US State Department.

Updated: January 26, 2023, 10:15 PM