President Trump “had a very somber and lengthy conversation with the family” of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in Yemen over the weekend, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
“The president offered his sincerest condolences to Officer Owens’ wife, his father and their three children,” Spicer said during his Tuesday briefing.
Owens, 36, was the first service member killed in action since Trump became commander-in-chief. The chief petty officer was part of a SEAL team carrying out a raid against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which resulted in the deaths of 14 members of the terrorist group (including three senior leaders) and the recovery of intelligence data that could prove useful in thwarting future attacks.
NEW: US service member killed in Yemen raid ID'd as Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, according to statement from Sec. James Mattis. pic.twitter.com/2vQbSfzr3n— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 30, 2017
Owens, who was from Peoria, Ill., died of wounds sustained during what was reportedly a two-hour gunfight.
“Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement Monday. “The United States would not long exist were it not for the selfless commitment of such warriors.”
In a statement released Sunday, President Trump said, “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. My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member.”
Owens enlisted in 1998, serving first in Naval intelligence before attending basic and advanced SEAL training in Coronado, Calif., which he completed in December 2002, according to the Navy Times.
Becoming a SEAL had been Owens’ dream since his freshman year of high school his friend Cody Jackson recounted to the Peoria Journal Star.
The petty officer was reportedly serving with the famed SEAL Team 6, based in Virginia Beach, Va., which is the unit credited with killing Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
Sunday’s raid in Yemen began at 2 a.m. local time, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.
After initial missile strikes, a two-hour gun battle ensued, between the Navy SEALs and al Qaeda fighters, during which three other Navy SEALs were wounded.
A fourth was injured when the MV 22 Navy Osprey carrying some of the sailors made a hard landing. The aircraft had to be destroyed.
According to a Pentagon spokesman, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for, or has been linked to, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the attempted underwear bombing aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas 2009.
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