America's long-simmering war against Islamist fighters in Somalia claimed another casualty on Friday (June 8). US Army Special Operations Command announced today (June 11) that the one American soldier killed in the recent firefight between Somali government troops and Islamist militants was 26-year-old Staff Sergeant Alexander W. Conrad. Conrad, originally from Chandler, Arizona, was a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. reports that Conrad joined the US Army in 2010 and was first assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Conrad served two tours of duty in Afghanistan prior to joining the 3rd Special Forces Group. Along with several awards and citations, including two Meritorious Unit Commendations and three Army Commendation Medals, Conrad has been posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Meritorious Service Medal.

In response to Chandler's death, President Donald Trump tweeted out: "My thoughts and prayers are with the families of our serviceman who was killed and his fellow servicemen who were wounded in Somalia. They are truly all HEROES." AZ Central also reported that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said on Sunday (June 10) that all flags would be lowered to half-staff in order to commemorate Conrad.

War against militants

Conrad was just one of about 800 US troops, most of whom are members of elite forces like Special Forces and the US Navy SEALs, who are currently deployed in East Africa. During the attack on Friday, US Africa Command says that Conrad and other US soldiers were working alongside the Somali National Security Forces and the Kenyan Defense Forces when, at approximately 2:45 PM Mogadishu time, Islamist militants opened fire with small arms and mortars.

Four Americans in total were wounded in the attack, with Conrad being the only KIA. The attacking militants belonged to the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, which is officially part of al-Qaeda but has splinter groups affiliated with ISIS, which has carried on a war against the Somali government in Mogadishu since 2009. The Daily Beast has reported that al-Shabaab gunmen diverted the Jubba River in order to force the American soldiers and their East African allies to build a combat outpost on higher ground.

This then allowed al-Shabaab to ambush the unsuspecting troops.

Africa in flames

American troops have been involved in Somalia since 1992. During Operation Restore Hope, American and United Nations soldiers attempted to bring peace to the East African nation during a turbulent civil war. Less than a year later, in response to warlord attacks on UN convoys and American Marines, Delta Force and other special operators launched Operation Gothic Serpent in order to catch warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The failures of this mission led to the Battle of Mogadishu, which was immortalized in the book and film, "Black Hawk Down."

Since that time, American troops have been deployed all over Africa in order to stem the rising tide of Islamist militants.

Just last year, in October 2017, four members of Special Forces were killed in Niger during an ambush orchestrated by ISIS. This ambush led to growing public awareness in the United States about the sheer size of US special operations in Africa.