US says American service member dies in Somalia

A U.S. service member has been killed in Somalia during a Somali-led mission against the al Shabaab militant group, U.S. military officials said on Friday.

U.S. Africa Command said the service member died on Thursday while U.S. forces were advising and assisting a Somali National Army operation about 40 miles (60 km) west of Mogadishu near Barii, Somalia.

"U.S. forces were conducting an advise and assist mission alongside members of the Somali National Army," it said in a statement.

"U.S. forces are assisting partner forces to counter al-Shabaab in Somalia to degrade the al Qaeda affiliate's ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America."

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Bringing Peace to Somalia, One Plate at a Time
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Bringing Peace to Somalia, One Plate at a Time

In a show of solidarity with the Somali people, London chef Ahmed Jama returned to his war-torn home country several years ago to open branches of his successful restaurant, The Village. Read on to discover more details about his inspiring story.

Image Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP

Ahmed found solace in the kitchen in the days following the suicide bombing attack on his restaurant in central Mogadishu last September. "[In the] following days of the explosion, I went into the kitchen, in the kitchen cooking," he tells NPR.

Image Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP

One of the reasons why Ahmed quickly re-opened his restaurant after the attack was the responsibility he felt over his staff. He lost five workers in the explosion, but his surviving employees reported for work the following day, according to UK broadcaster Channel 4.

Image Credit: Facebook

Ahmed chose to build in Mogadishu because he was "surprised" that there was nowhere his people could go out to eat, demonstrating the toll war had taken on the city's infrastructure. In a TEDxMogadishu talk last year, he explains, "This is your place. You have to teach your people. We have to go out to eat. We have to enjoy."

Image Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP

After opening his first restaurant in downtown Mogadishu, Ahmed set his sights on beachfront property. In 2012, he opened a hotel and restaurant at Jazeera Beach, where guests can stay for $100 a night and dine al fresco by sandy white beaches and blue waters, in the hope of promoting tourism in his country.

Image Credit: Facebook

Ahmed names all his properties The Village after his first restaurant at Hammersmith, West London. In an article from The Guardian, he says he likes the name because "Somalia has been divided as a nation but the village is where they all come from. It's a welcome for everyone."

Image Credit: Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP

In his TEDxMogadishu talk last year, Ahmed describes his decision to enter the culinary arts as an usual choice. "I was a curiosity," he reveals, as not many people knew about Somali cuisine. He asked himself, "Why not be one of Somalia's cooks, and [let] everyone see the cooking?" The lack of presence of Somali food in London's dining scene led him to open his first restaurant.

Image Credit: Facebook

What do the Somali people eat? "Lots of pasta, lots of spicy, nice rice," he says in a CNN video interview. Ahmed describes Somali cuisine as Mediterranean, the result of being a melting pot of many cultures such as East Africa, India and Arabia. European countries like France, Britain and Italy have colonized Somalia and left behind culinary influences like pasta and pudding.

Image Credit: Adam Gault

Interestingly, most Somalis don't eat seafood despite the country's coastline access to waters teeming with lobster, shrimp and fish. Ahmed has added lobster to his menu in an effort to widen Somali culinary palates.

Image Credit: Emily Duchesne

Ahmed's dishes bring flair to traditional Somali cuisine, and NPR's John Burnett describes a particularly mouth-watering meal at The Village in Mogadishu. A starter shrimp salad with "mango, lime, and strips of chapatti bread" precedes a main dish of charcoal-grilled kingfish, caught that very morning. Carrots and raisins garnish a side of rice spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and cumin.

Image Credit: Chris Gramly

Most of Ahmed's clientele are European or from Somalia's diaspora, reports the Associated Press. Menu prices range from $3 for pasta to $20 for a lobster dish, which are not too expensive but still more than most Somalis can afford.

Image Credit: Andre Baranowski

What's on Ahmed's plate this year? The Village Restaurants Mogadishu's Facebook page unveils photos of a new hotel and restaurant complex in Mogadishu that has a large multi-purpose room and an outdoor entertaining area. Take a peek in this Vine video!

Image Credit: Facebook

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Two other U.S. servicemen were wounded during the operation, when U.S. troops were hunting an al Shabaab commander near the Shabelle river, a Mogadishu-based security source told Reuters. There were no casualties among the Somali special forces, he said.

Al Shabaab wants to overthrow the weak Western-backed Somali government and impose its own strict brand of Islamic law.

Somalia has been torn apart by civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart in Washington and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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