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Three US troops killed in Jordan drone strike linked to Iran

Published 01/28/2024, 11:48 AM
Updated 01/29/2024, 12:06 AM
© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at South Carolina’s First in the Nation Dinner at the State Fairgrounds in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., January 27, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

By Phil Stewart, Steve Holland and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Three U.S. service members were killed and at least 34 wounded in a drone attack by Iran-backed militants on U.S. troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border, President Joe Biden and U.S. officials said on Sunday.

It is the first deadly strike against U.S. forces since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October, and marks a major escalation in tensions that have engulfed the Middle East.

"While we are still gathering the facts of this attack, we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq," Biden said in a statement.

"Have no doubt - we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing," he said.

Iran's mission to the United Nations said in a statement on Monday that Tehran was not involved in the attack.

"Iran had no connection and had nothing to do with the attack on the U.S. base," the mission said in a statement published by the state news agency IRNA.

It added: "There is a conflict between U.S. forces and resistance groups in the region, which reciprocate retaliatory attacks."

Biden asked for a moment of silence for the three killed service members during a campaign event in South Carolina, adding: "We shall respond."

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed that threat. He and other senior officials briefed Biden earlier in the day on the attack.

At least 34 personnel were injured in the attack, but that number is expected to change as more people seek care, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command. Eight personnel were evacuated from Jordan for higher level care, but are in stable condition.

Two U.S. officials said the drone struck near the barracks early in the morning, which could explain the high number of casualties.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella organization of hardline Iran-backed militant groups, claimed attacks on three bases, including one on the Jordan-Syria border.

The attack is likely to fan fears of wider conflict in the Middle East, where war broke out in Gaza after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7 which killed 1,200. Israel's subsequent assault on Gaza has killed over 26,000 Palestinians, according to the local health ministry.

Since then, U.S. forces have come under attack more than 150 times by Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria, causing at least 70 casualties prior to Sunday's attack, most of them traumatic brain injuries.

U.S. warships have also been fired at by Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen, who are regularly attacking commercial ships passing through Red Sea waters off Yemen's coast.

While the United States has thus far maintained an official line that Washington is not at war in the region, it has been retaliating against the Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria and carrying out strikes against Yemen's Houthi military capabilities.

BIDEN PRESSURED ON IRAN

Republican opponents of Biden seized on the attack as evidence of the Democratic president's failure to confront Iran as its proxies strike against U.S. forces across the region.

"The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces ... Anything less will confirm Joe Biden as a coward," said Republican Senator Tom Cotton in a statement.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Biden's inaction was emboldening enemies of the United States in the Middle East.

"The time to start taking this aggression seriously was long before more brave Americans lost their lives," McConnell said.

A senior official with the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, directly tied the attack to Israel's campaign in Gaza.

"The killing of three American soldiers is a message to the U.S. administration that unless the killing of innocents in Gaza stops, it must confront the entire nation," he told Reuters.

"The continued American-Zionist aggression on Gaza is capable of exploding the situation in the region."

The U.S. military said the attack occurred at a base in northeastern Jordan, near the Syrian border. It did not name the base, but a person familiar with the matter identified it as Tower 22 in Jordan.

U.S. military activity in Jordan can be a sensitive issue, particularly at a time of heightened tensions due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, because of increasing concern in Jordan about the war spreading.

The Jordanian government said only that the attack occurred at an "advanced post" along its border with Syria.

Late last year, Amman asked Washington to deploy Patriot air defense systems to bolster its border defense.

© Reuters. Satellite view of the U.S. military outpost known as Tower 22, in Rukban, Rwaished District, Jordan October 12, 2023 in this handout image. Planet Labs PBC/Handout via REUTERS

It has requested more aid to tackle drones used in a raging multibillion-dollar drug war along the border with Syria, which Amman blames on pro-Iranian militias who hold sway in southern Syria.

The kingdom has hundreds of U.S. trainers in the country and holds extensive exercises with U.S. troops throughout the year.

Latest comments

Big Don would order a Carpet Bombing of downtown Tehran at morning prayers, on his way to a Golf a game. Biden is sooo wimpy .... Just like those who voted for him. Love to All, Charles.
He did nada in 2020 after Iran struck US forces in Iraq.
so many brainwashed MAGA spouting PROVEN Lies and Misinformation from the far right and Russian echo chambers.
which republican? Cheney is not
  Liz is more Republican than Trump.
  The Trump admin was filled w/ retrumplicans, and Trump had them signed NDAs.
Trump and his simple minded foreign policies and appeasement and lack of backbone, towards dictator Putin, paved the way for this mess in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
traitor-trump unilaterally pulling out of the iran-deal paved the way for the recent conflicts in the Middle East. and that was just one of his countless mistakes.. trump was by far the most incompetent president in history...
Democrats where wrong by starting the deal. They should have changed the regime instead.
Troops hit by drone strike ordered by Netanyahu?
Troops hit by Israeli drone.
More like US troops hit by Israeli drone in Jordan made to look like Iran-backed forces. My statement is as true as theirs.
If U.S. soldiers cannot defend themselves, why are they over there?
they can and do defend themselves. the Russians in Syria found that out already....so stop with the bs from the enemies of America.
Biden/Obama appeasers…worst Presidents ever and a danger to Amercia..
mark , Charles, Jim how long have you been a supporter of fascist dictatorships, and their Allie running for president Donald Trump.
so many anti American and pro maga, pro Russian posters tonight.
Expect the Biden Administration to overwhelmingly retaliate directly against the responsible parties. Trump would have called Putin first before making a decision.
Biden hopes that by bribing Iran with more funds that they would stop killing Americans. Trump would never have released the funds. Rinos and Democrats support the military industrial complex and the escalation of wars worldwide.
no he doesn't, stop spreading MAGA misinformation and lies, the American government has already frozen the billions in Iranian assets held in truste accounts held and managed by the gulf states
It is just a shame.... on letting this happening
Heard the Sec of Defense is back at the Pentagon. Oh Goodie, things are gonna happen now. Right. The Drag Queen Military to the Rescue. Lots of the Beta Male MAGA Phobes heading for the Recruitment office. Gonna go over the the Middle East and get mad and slap a few of those Rag Heads.
Retrumplicans are really anti-military rinos.
Biden will issue a "Letter of Disappointment" with the UN Security Council. Trump would order a Carpet Bombing of downtown Tehran on his way to a Golf Game. Anyway, gotta go get some more bird seed for my Pigeons. Love to Aal, Charles.
Trump did nada when Iran struck US forces in Iraq in 2020.
Retrumplicans want the US to doing what Russia/China want:  withdraw from the rest of the world and let retrumplicans' masters take over and encircle/surround/invade the US/EU.    Retrumplicans are actually pro-globalization  --  just not a US/EU/democracies-led globalization.
  Hey, I didn't called wounded/killed American soldiers 'losers' & 'suckers'; I never said "'I like people who weren't captured' w.r.t. POWs.  Don't project from your cult leader to me.
casador his reaction is justified...it's your reaction that smacks of collusion with the enemies of America and it's democracy.
Mathew this preoccupation with meds get a reader wondering perhaps your the one with drug problems.
What are american soldiers doing in Syria? Did someone invite them?
  Where has Syrian oil revenues been going?
sh ut up, Russian bot
What are the Russians doing in Siria then?in Ukraime?in Moldova?in Africa?where the Russians there are blood and war
We need to get rid of this weak president. can you imagine how much worse things will get, when the hoe takes over
  If she is, then Trump could be her john, even though she's neither his daughter nor a porn star nor a Russian offering golden showers.
Can't wait for the extinction of pathetic men who must resort to denigrating accomplished women as a reaction to their own shortcomings.
  Trump's short little loser hands!  ;-)
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