Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab claims to have killed "American trainers" in a raid on an African peacekeepers base, in an official communiqué issued Monday. If true, it would hint at a previously unreported level of American involvement in the war on Somalia's main Islamist terrorist organization.
There have been no reports, however, about any American casualties in Somalia this week. Two suicide bombers attacked a base with African peacekeepers Monday, killing at least two people. Ugandan military officials dismissed the al-Shabaab claim in a statement. "We lost two soldiers and that was explained by Amisom. We are expecting their bodies today," a spokesperson said. "It's a lie that there are American soldiers training UPDF soldiers in Somalia."
But al-Shabaab's statement quoted a spokesman named Ali-Mohamed Rage, who claimed both African Union forces and American trainers were among the casualties. "We have already displayed the corpses of the slain Ugandan soldiers to the media yesterday and today Allah has enabled the Mujahideen to add three more Americans to the list; that is in addition to the American sniper killed in yesterday's battle," he added, but did not note when and where American bodies would be displayed.
American air raids have killed al-Shabaab regulars and leaders, but little information exists about Special Operations troops on the ground. A 2007 Associated Press report discussed the presence of a small American team in Somalia and Eritrea, both struggling against Islamist extremism and terrorism. However, senior U.S. defense officials dismissed the possibility of large numbers of ground troops.
"The only way we are going to kill or capture the surviving al-Qaida terrorists is for U.S. special forces to go in on the ground," said Hussein Aided, a former U.S. Marine and deputy prime minister, in 2007. "They have the know-how and the right equipment to capture these people."