Flashpoints

Pentagon IDs soldier who died while supporting operations in the Horn of Africa

Army Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, died in a non-combat related incident at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The soldier from Mountainair, New Mexico, died Feb. 13 and the incident is currently under investigation, according to a news release.

Lewark was serving with 1st Battalion, 200th Infantry Regiment, 93d Troop Command, New Mexico Army National Guard, from Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the release detailed.

No other information was made available regarding the death of Lewark.

The Horn of Africa remains a violent and volatile region. There are roughly 6,000 U.S. troops deployed throughout the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility.

Camp Lemonnier boasts the largest footprint in AFRICOM, boasting nearly 3,000 American troops, according to a recent inspector general report.

There are another 800 U.S. troops in West Africa and roughly 500 U.S. commandos dispersed across AFRICOM, the report detailed.

The Islamic extremist group known as al-Shabab remains one of the biggest threats in the Horn of Africa.

Shabab militants launched two brazen assaults on the Baledogle air base in Somalia in September, and an attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya in January that killed three Americans including a U.S. soldier.

Following the Manda Bay attack, Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, described Shabab as “ruthless” and a group that “must be dealt with before the network expands its reach to other places, to include their stated desire to strike U.S. citizens in the U.S. homeland.”

Townsend further described Shabab as "the most dangerous to U.S. interests today.”

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