June 10, 2018 / 5:05 AM / in 9 days

U.S. soldier killed in Somalia firefight identified

(Reuters) - A U.S. commando killed in a Somalia firefight against al-Shabaab militants was identified as U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alexander Conrad, 26, of Chandler, Arizona, the Department of Defense said late Saturday.

Sgt. Conrad was killed and four other commandos were wounded Friday during an operation against the militants, the U.S. military said.

Conrad, born in Mesa, Arizona, was attached to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Airborne, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said Lt. Colonel Robert Bockholt, an Army spokesman.

He was a Human Intelligence, noncommissioned officer.

Conrad, and the U.S. special operations forces were fighting alongside about 800 troops from the Somali National Security Forces and Kenyan Defense Forces when they were attacked about 2:45 p.m. Friday by mortars and small arms fire.

The troops had been on a mission to clear al-Shabaab from contested areas as well as villages the militants controlled, “and establish a permanent combat outpost” to expand the reach of the Somali state, the U.S. military’s Africa Command said in a statement.

Although one of the wounded Americans did not receive additional care after being treated in the field, the other three were medically evacuated for follow-up care.

Conrad was previously deployed to Afghanistan twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, for a total of more than 13 months.

He had received numerous awards and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, Bockholt said.

About 500 U.S. troops are deployed in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s central government and establish its own rule based on its interpretation of Islamic law.

Since being pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011, the group has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns, but it retains a strong presence in regions outside the capital.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Richard Pullin

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