During an assault operation in northern Somalia, the US military killed a senior Islamic State leader.
The operation was announced by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who identified the leader as Bilal al-Sudani, a key operative and facilitator for ISIS’s global network.
“This action makes the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting Americans at home and abroad from the threat of terrorism,” Austin said in a statement.
According to senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, about ten of al-ISIS Sudani’s operatives were also killed in the assault, which was authorised by President Joe Biden and took place Wednesday in a mountainous cave complex in northern Somalia.
Military officials had planned for the possibility of apprehending al-Sudani, but a hostile response resulted in his death, according to the officials.
According to officials, there were no casualties among American service members or civilians.
According to US Africa Command, Wednesday’s strike was the third by US forces in Somalia since January 20.
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, officials said.
Al-Sudani has a long history of terrorist activity in Somalia. Prior to joining ISIS, he was designated as an ISIS leader by the US Treasury Department in 2012 for his role in assisting foreign fighters in travelling to an al-Shabaab training camp and facilitating financing for violent foreign extremists in Somalia.
According to officials, Al-Sudani played a key operational and financial role with specialised skills, making him an important target for US counterterrorism action.
According to officials, the assault operation that killed al-Sudani was the result of months of coordination and planning across the US government. The Defense Department briefed Biden and other members of his national security team last week, when planning reached a critical stage. Biden gave the operation his approval earlier this week.
For decades, US counterterrorism officials have been concerned about East Africa, including Somalia and Sudan. Osama bin Laden founded the Al Qaeda network in 1988 with a group of Arab and other foreign veterans of the Afghan insurgency. Two years later, he left Saudi Arabia for Sudan, where he recruited operatives for his new organisation.
In March 2022, the US Treasury sanctioned several Islamic State organisers and financial facilitators based in southern Africa, claiming 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,” Treasury Undersecretary Brian Nelson said at the time.
Al-Sudani was not among those sanctioned by the Treasury. However, Treasury described him in its announcement as a US-designated ISIS leader in Somalia who was assisting ISIS supporters in South Africa in becoming better organised and recruiting new members.
“ISIS has recently attempted to expand its influence in Africa through large-scale operations in areas with limited government control,” Nelson said. “In Africa, ISIS branches rely on local fundraising schemes such as theft, extortion of local populations, and ransom kidnapping, as well as financial support from the ISIS hierarchy.”