US raids, kills IS leader

The US military organized a raid in Somalia on the orders of President Joe Biden, killing the leader of a key area of ​​IS, Bilal al-Sudani.

US officials said on January 26 that Sudani was killed in a gun battle after US troops landed in a mountainous cave complex in northern Somalia to capture the leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). About 10 Sudanese Islamic State associates at the scene were killed, but there were no US casualties.

“On January 25, by order of the President, the US military launched an offensive operation in northern Somalia, which resulted in the death of several members of the Islamic State, including Bilal al-Sudani,” the secretary of state said. US Chamber of Commerce Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“Al-Sudani is responsible for fueling ISIS’s growing presence in Africa and funding the group’s operations around the world, including in Afghanistan,” Austin added.

From his mountain base in northern Somalia, Al-Sudani has provided and coordinated funding to IS affiliates, not only in Africa but also Islamic State Khorasan, the IS operations arm in Afghanistan, said an unnamed US official.

Islamic State fighters march on the streets of Syria in 2014. Photo: AP.

Islamic State fighters march on the streets of Syria in 2014. Photo: AP.

Ten years ago, before joining IS, Sudani recruited and trained fighters for the extremist movement al-Shabaab in Somalia.

“Sudani has a significant financial and operational role with his expertise, making him an important target in US counterterrorism action,” the official added.

The operation had been in preparation for months, with American forces maneuvering at the site built to recreate the terrain where Sudani was hiding. Biden authorized the strike earlier this week after consulting with top defense, intelligence and security officials.

“A targeted capture operation was ultimately determined to be the best option to maximize the intelligence value of the operation and increase accuracy in challenging terrain,” another official said.

However, “the reaction of hostile forces to the operation resulted in his death”, the official stressed, adding that the only injury to the US side in the raid was a soldier. bitten by a US military service dog.

“President Biden has made it very clear that we are committed to finding and eliminating terrorist threats to the United States and its people, no matter where they are hiding, no matter how far away,” he said. US officials added.

American forces have long operated in Somalia in coordination with and on behalf of the government, primarily conducting regular airstrikes in support of government forces fighting Shabaab rebels. Some of them are believed to be conducted from the US base in Djibouti, northern Somalia.

US air strikes in Somalia increased to dozens per year between 2017 and 2020, but also included two to four ground operations per year. Since Biden became president in 2021, airstrikes have dropped to 16 by 2022 and no ground attacks have been recorded, according to data compiled by New America, a national security think-tank. synthesizer.

Huyen Le (Theo AFP, NBC News)

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