WASHINGTON — A Navy SEAL was killed in the first counterterrorism raid of the Trump administration, along with what the Pentagon said were female al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen but the terror group claimed were children and innocent women.
SEAL Team 6 conducted the operation against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Yakla’ district compound on Saturday, where Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the SEALs encountered “a lot of female combatants that were a part of this.”
The Pentagon and the White House said 14 enemy fighters were killed, including some women.
President Trump said in a statement that the operation resulted in the capture of “important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world.” Davis said the operation had been in the planning stages for months and got the green light from Trump.
On Monday, the slain Navy SEAL was identified as Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Ill. Three others were wounded in the fighting. The Osprey evacuating the wounded made a crash landing, and was destroyed by an airstrike as it was unable to fly out of the area.
“Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service. The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement. “I thank our gallant troops and their families for their dedication to protecting this nation, and I pass our respects to Ryan’s family in this most difficult time.”
AQAP claimed in a statement that they downed the helicopter and inflicted casualties on the SEALs, who then took revenge by killing women and children. The grandfather of 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki, daughter of late U.S.-born recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki, told Reuters she was shot to death in the raid.
Yemeni officials said 30 were killed in the operation, including 10 women and three children.
Pro-AQAP social media accounts tweeted photos of bodies of children and elderly that they say were killed in the operation, claiming that no al-Qaeda members were among the dead but “only women and children were killed in the raid together with some tribal leaders who have no connections to Al-Qaeda.”
“May Allah hasten his revenge,” the message added.
On an al-Qaeda Telegram account, though, members were mourning an unspecified number of militants killed in the raid.