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First-known combat death since Trump sworn in identified

Slain SEAL identified

WASHINGTON -- The Defense Department announced Monday that the U.S. Navy sailor killed during a raid on an al Qaida base in Yemen was from Peoria, Illinois. 

Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens died Jan. 28 of wounds sustained during the raid. 

American service member killed in Yemen raid

The Pentagon said Owens, 36, was assigned to an East Coast-based Special Warfare unit. Owens’ death is the first known U.S. military combat casualty since President Donald Trump took the oath of office on Jan. 20.

“My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member,” Mr. Trump said when Owens’ death became known.

Three other service members were wounded Sunday during the firefight with militants from al Qaeda. The raid left nearly 30 others dead, including an estimated 14 militants. A fourth U.S. service member was injured when a military aircraft assisting in the mission nearby had a “hard landing.” 

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis issued a statement Monday praising Owens for his service. 

“Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service,” he said. “The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors.”   

Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens died Jan. 28 of wounds sustained during a raid in Yemen. Handout

CBS News correspondent David Martin confirmed that the raid, carried out by Navy SEAL Team 6, was approved by Mr. Trump. The aircraft assisting the mission -- an MV-22 Osprey, Martin confirmed -- was unable to fly afterward and was “intentionally destroyed.”

Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited the chaos of Yemen’s civil war, seizing territory in the south and east when it began in 2014. The war began when Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies swept down from the north and captured the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led military coalition has been helping government forces battle the rebels.

The U.S. has been striking al Qaeda in Yemen from the air for more than 15 years, mostly using drones, and Sunday’s surprise pre-dawn raid could signal a new escalation against extremist groups in the Arab world’s poorest but strategically located country.

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