JOHANNESBURG – The United States military says the head of Special Operations Command Africa has suspended a regional commander and an enlisted adviser over alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Both senior leaders have been sent back to the United States while the allegations are investigated, according to reports in American media.
“Special Operations Command Africa commander Maj. Gen. Mark Hicks suspended the Special Operations Command Forward – East Africa commander and senior enlisted adviser of their duties on May 10 due to allegations of misconduct,” Maj. Casey Osborne, a spokesman for Special Operations Command Africa, told the ABC News on Saturday.
One of the team leaders is being investigated for the alleged inappropriate touching of a female service member during the deployment, it reported.
The US has about 1,000 special operations personnel in Africa. Those in East Africa largely assist in countering the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group.
While “pulled from deployment” both senior leaders have not been relieved of their duties as the commanding officer and command master chief of their SEAL Team. While stateside they will remain in those positions as the allegations are investigated by the Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service.
This comes as Special Operations Forces in Africa have come under increasing scrutiny following allegations that civilian casualties had been caused during a May 9 “Somali-led operation to disrupt and degrade al-Shabaab’s terrorist network near Bulcida, Somalia.”
— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) May 11, 2018
Africa Command said US military advisers had partnered with the Somali forces during the operation where the alleged civilian casualties took place.
An elite Special Missions unit of Navy SEAL, called Special Warfare Development Group DEVGRU, is best known for its role in the Osama bin Laden raid.