The commander and the senior enlisted adviser of a US Navy SEAL Team deployed to Africa have been relieved of their duties and sent home due to sexual misconduct allegations regarding multiple fellow US military female service members, a US defense official tells CNN.
“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 CNN.
“Gen. Hicks directed both individuals to return to their home station for further adjudication regarding the allegations,” Osborne added, while not specifying the nature of the allegations.
Many of the Navy SEALs in East Africa conduct operations in Somalia, where they advise Somali forces battling al-Shabaab, the local affiliate of al Qaeda.
The two Navy SEALs are being investigated by the Navy’s Criminal Investigative Service.
“A commanding officer and command master chief assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit have been relieved of their duties overseas due to alleged misconduct,” Lt. Jacqui Maxwell, a spokesperson for Naval Special Warfare Group TWO, told CNN.
“Naval Special Warfare and NCIS have initiated investigations as appropriate,” she added.
A spokesperson for NCIS did not immediately respond to questions from CNN about the investigation.
ABC was first to report the allegations.
News of the investigation comes as Special Operations Forces in Africa have come under increasing scrutiny.
Earlier on Friday US Africa Command, which oversees US military operations on the continent, issued a statement saying it was reviewing 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.”
Africa Command said US military advisers had partnered with the Somali forces during the operation where the alleged civilian casualties took place.
NCIS is also still investigating the alleged killing of civilians in August during a joint US-Somali military operation in Somalia.
The initial investigation by US Special Operations Command Africa concluded that the only casualties during the operation were al-Shabaab fighters, however, the commander of Africa Command, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, referred the matter to NCIS following media reports that alleged “misconduct by US personnel who participated in the operation.”
And on Thursday, the Pentagon released a summary of its months-long investigation into an October 4 ambush that left four US soldiers dead in a remote part of Niger.
The investigation identified “individual, organizational, and institutional failures and deficiencies that contributed to the tragic events of 4 October 2017,” according to the summary.