Over the past year, American military officials have expressed new concerns about the Shabab, which was responsible for one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on African soil when it struck a popular mall in Nairobi in 2013.
The statement did not clarify whether the "partner force member" was part of the Somali or Kenyan armed forces. A fourth servicemember suffered injuries minor enough to receive sufficient medical care in the field, AFRICOM said.
It was the first public announcement of a US military combat death on the African continent since four USA service members were killed in a militant ambush in Niger in October.
The official added that there were no plans for Somali forces to leave the combat outpost and that they would maintain a presence there. Afterward, Africa Command revisited the protection that USA troops in Africa on operations. The Americans train and support Somali troops and give them intelligence information to help in their campaign against al-Shabab, in addition to helping with surveillance and airstrikes. Previous year there was also an incident in Mali in which two SEAL Team Six operators allegedly murdered a Green Beret on an embassy compound, reportedly over fears that he would expose a money laundering scheme that the SEALs were running.
The last killing of a US service member in Somalia was in May 2017 during an operation about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Mogadishu.
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Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, DC, said about 500 United States troops are deployed in Somalia, including highly-trained special forces and Navy Seals.
The most recent USA casualty in Somalia occurred past year, when a member of the Navy SEALs was killed in a nighttime attack in Somalia. In October, four soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger that raised questions about the military's strategy on the Continent.
A Defense Department official told CBS News the attack was by the al Shabaab terror group. But the extremist group still carries out suicide attacks across Somalia. However, critics of the military's strategy have argued USA forces should exercise more caution in Africa where US interests are limited.
Trump approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab in early 2017, leading to an increase in US military personnel to more than 500 and the launch of dozens of drone strikes.
A US military report on that incident publicized by the Pentagon last month without being fully released found that multiple individual and institutional failures left the USA troops vulnerable to the ambush.