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U.S. Special Operations Forces Involved in Somalia Raid: Defense Officials

U.S. special operations forces participated in a military raid in southern Somalia overnight, defense officials told NBC News Wednesday.

The raid comes just days after the Pentagon said a massive U.S. airstrike killed more than 150 members of the al-Shabab terror group in the east African nation.

The al-Qaeda offshoot said Wednesday that foreign forces dropped in by helicopter had attempted to raid an al-Shabab-held town in southern Somalia overnight, according to The Associated Press. The militant group told the news agency its fighters fended off the raid.

What is Al Shabab? 1:21

Defense officials on Wednesday confirmed that special operations forces were involved in a raid in southern Somalia.

According to the officials, the Somali military forces were flown to the target area aboard U.S. military helicopters. The American commandos on the operation accompanied the Somali soldiers in an "advise, assist, and accompany" role, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said.

U.S. helicopters carried the Somali National Army soldiers to the operation and back, and advised them during the mission.

Davis could not say how involved the U.S. troops were there during the actual mission.

It's not clear whether the U.S. forces were drawn into combat with the al-Shabab militants during the raid. Two al-Shabab fighters were reportedly captured during the operation.

The involvement of U.S. forces in Somalia has been a sensitive subject since the deadly 1993 "Black Hawk Down" operation, in which 18 American troops were killed when helicopters were shot down by militants.

Memories of that incident have colored U.S. policy on Somalia for years, with successive administrations reluctant to get involved or risk a deadly repeat as al-Shabab gained strength.

January 2014 marked what appeared to be a turning point. The United States deployed a small team of military advisers to be based in Somalia for the first time in more than 20 years to help the Somali military plan and coordinate operations against the al Qaeda-linked group.