The Pentagon has identified the Navy SEAL killed in last Saturday's raid on a militant compound in Yemen as Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36. Between three and six other U.S. personnel were injured in the chaotic raid. President Trump, who authorized the intelligence-gathering mission, has called Owens' family and expressed his condolences; it's the first U.S. combat fatality of Trump's term. Also killed in the raid were al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) senior leader Abdulraoof al-Dhahab and at least 13 other militants. Yemeni officials say at least 10 women and children were also killed, including the 8-year-old daughter of U.S.-born AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki, himself slain in a 2011 drone strike.
Things started going wrong for U.S. forces immediately, The Washington Post reported Tuesday night. They encountered fierce resistance as soon as they landed in the village of Taklaa, outside a heavily guarded AQAP compound. Officials called in backup, and helicopter gunships and Harrier jets struck the compound, before a Special Ops team arrived to evacuate the U.S. commandos and their wounded. Owens died from his injuries after being pulled out, The Post says. In the evacuation, one of the MV-22 Osprey helicopters lost power and landed hard, wounding two service members; a U.S. missile destroyed the Osprey so it wouldn't fall into enemy hands. Sources tell ABC's Martha Raddatz that AQAP seemed to know the Americans were coming:
The mission was to detain Yemeni tribal leaders working with AQAP, one of the most aggressive al Qaeda branches, and to gather intelligence to help prevent terrorist attacks. The U.S. hadn't launched any ground raids in Yemen since late 2014, before a Saudi-led Arab coalition started attacking Houthi rebels, with limited U.S. support. The fighting withered U.S. intelligence-gathering on AQAP, and a small Special Ops outpost was established on coastal Yemen last year, with United Arab Emirates troops, to start filling the counterintelligence hole, The Post reports.
Planning for the Yemen raid began in the final weeks of the Obama administration, and a former senior defense official said to expect more such raids in the future. "We really struggled with getting the White House comfortable with getting boots on the ground in Yemen,” the former official told The Washington Post. "Since the new administration has come in, the approvals [at the Pentagon] appear to have gone up." Trump called the raid a success, citing the slain militants and seized intelligence.