Islamic State leader operating in Somalia, Bilal al-Sudani, killed by US military forces
WASHINGTON – The U.S. military has killed a senior Islamic State leader during an assault operation in northern Somalia.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who announced the operation, identified the leader as Bilal al-Sudani, a key operative and facilitator for ISIS's global network.
"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.
About 10 of al-Sudani's ISIS operatives also were killed in the assault, which was authorized by President Joe Biden and took place Wednesday in a mountainous cave complex in northern Somalia, said senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Military officials had prepared for the possibility of capturing al-Sudani, but a response by hostile forces resulted in his death, the officials said.
There were no casualties among American service members or civilians, the officials said.
Wednesday's strike is the third by U.S. forces in Somalia since Jan. 20, according to U.S. Africa Command.
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From his cave complex, al-Sudani supported ISIS's expansion and activities across Africa and beyond the continent by providing funding to sustain the organization's operational capabilities around the world, including ISIS's Khorasan branch in Afghanistan, one of the terrorist group's most lethal branches, officials said.
Al-Sudani has a long history as a terrorist in Somalia. Before joining ISIS, he was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2012 as an ISIS leader for his role in helping foreign fighters travel to an al-Shabaab training camp and facilitating financing for violent foreign extremists in Somalia.
Al-Sudani had a key operational and financial role with specialized skills that made him an important target for U.S. counterterrorism action, officials said.
The assault operation that killed al-Sudani resulted from months of coordination and planning across the U.S. government, the officials said. Once planning reached a critical stage last week, the Defense Department briefed Biden and other members of his national security team. Biden authorized the operation earlier this week.
East Africa, including Somalia and Sudan, has been of concern to U.S. counterterrorism officials for decades. In 1988, Osama bin Laden established the al-Qaida network from a group of Arab and other foreign veterans of the Afghan insurgency. Two years later, he left his native Saudi Arabia for Sudan and used it as a base to recruit operatives for his new organization.
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In March 2022, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned several southern Africa-based Islamic State organizers and financial facilitators, saying they were “playing an increasingly central role in facilitating the transfer of funds from the top of the ISIS hierarchy to branches across Africa.”
“The United States is working with our African partners, including South Africa, to dismantle ISIS financial support networks on the continent,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury undersecretary, said at the time.
Al-Sudani was not one of those sanctioned in that Treasury action. But in its announcement, Treasury described him as a U.S. -designated ISIS leader in Somalia involved in helping ISIS supporters in South Africa become better organized and recruit new members.
“ISIS has recently attempted to expand its influence in Africa through large-scale operations in areas where government control is limited,” Nelson said. “ISIS branches in Africa rely on local fundraising schemes such as theft, extortion of local populations, and kidnapping for ransom, as well as financial support from the ISIS hierarchy."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ISIS leader in Somalia killed in raid by US military forces