Navy SEAL Team 6 Members Fought Female Fighters in Yemen Raid

Navy SEALs conduct training in a remote area. (US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Martin L. Carey)
Navy SEALs conduct training in a remote area. (US Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Martin L. Carey)

Navy SEAL Team 6 fought and killed female fighters of an al-Qaida affiliate in the raid Saturday in Yemen in which a team member was killed, three were wounded and three injured, the Pentagon said Monday.

"There were a lot of female combatants that were a part of this," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said of the firefight in the raid Saturday, which the Defense Department and White House said killed at least 14 enemy fighters. "Some of those enem[ies] killed in action were female."

Davis said the SEALs saw the women running to fighting positions as the team approached an enemy compound in Yemen's interior.

The main al-Qaida group generally limits women to support roles and suicide attacks, but AQAP reportedly has put women through training for combat.

The White House said the raid collected intelligence on AQAP's plans for attacks in Europe and elsewhere. Davis said the materiel gathered would give the DoD "a deeper insight into the group's planning."

AQAP has claimed responsibility for the "Charlie Hebdo" terror attacks in Paris in 2015 and for the attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit in December 2009 by the so-called "underwear bomber."

The raid was planned months ago under the administration of former President Barack Obama, Davis said, but was personally authorized by President Donald Trump in the first combat action he approved as the new commander in chief.

In a White House statement, Trump called the raid "successful" and said it resulted in the capture of intelligence that would "assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world."

"Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism," Trump said in the statement.

The SEAL team member reportedly was killed in the firefight in a remote desert area of Yemen's Shabwah governorate. Late Monday, he was identified as Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, of Peoria, Illinois.

Three other team members were wounded in the firefight, and three other service members were injured in the "hard landing" of V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft as it evacuated the raiders and the casualties, Davis said.

Davis said it was unclear whether the Osprey was the MV-22 Marine version of the aircraft or the CV-22 special operations variant. The Osprey could not be flown out after the hard landing and was destroyed in an airstrike, he said.

A Yemeni official told The Washington Post that about 35 to 40 people were killed in the raid on the village where AQAP had a presence. Davis said the U.S. is still assessing whether civilians were killed.

The U.S. raiders rappelled from aircraft as the militants gathered for a late-night session of chewing qat, the leafy narcotic used by most Yemeni males, the Yemeni official said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to identify the SEAL killed in the Yemen raid.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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