WASHINGTON (AP) — Three American service members were killed and dozens more injured in an unmanned drone strike on a base in Jordan on Sunday, President Biden and the U.S. military said.
In a statement, the president blamed the attack on “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq” and said the U.S. “will hold all those responsible accountable at a time and in a manner we choose.” “
Mr. Biden said the attack took place at a base in northeastern Jordan, a U.S. ally, near the border with Syria. A U.S. official said the attack occurred at an outpost called Tower 22, where about 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel are stationed, according to the Defense Department.
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U.S. Central Command, which oversees military forces in the Middle East, initially put the number of injured at 25, but two U.S. officials soon said the number had risen to more than 30. CENTCOM confirmed later Sunday evening that at least 34 had been injured. Eight of the wounded soldiers had to be evacuated – some were in critical condition but all were stable, a defense official told CBS News.
The killed and injured troops were in their sleeping quarters at the base when the drone strike took place in the early hours of the morning.
CENTCOM said the identities of those killed would be kept secret for 24 hours after their families were notified.
The White House said the president was briefed on the attack on Sunday morning and met again in the afternoon with senior advisers, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I want to point out that we had a tough day in the Middle East last night,” Mr. Biden said at a lunchtime event in South Carolina on Sunday afternoon. “We lost three brave soldiers in an attack on one of our bases. And I ask for a moment of silence for all three of our fallen soldiers.”
“And we will respond,” Mr. Biden added.
This satellite photo from Planet Labs PBC shows the military base known as Tower 22 in northeastern Jordan on Oct. 12, 2023. U.S. officials said it was the site of a drone strike on Jan. 28, 2024, that killed three American soldiers and injured dozens more . Planet Labs PBC/AP
The attack is considered the deadliest attack on US soldiers since 13 Americans died in a suicide bombing in Kabul as the US withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021.
The drone strike comes at a time when tensions between the US and Iran's proxies in the region have reached precarious heights in recent weeks, raising the risk that Israel's war with Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza will become a broader regional one conflict leads.
Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels began attacking ships in the Red Sea in October to protest the war in Gaza. The U.S. and its allies began airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen earlier this month, hoping to put an end to ship attacks. On Friday, Houthi fighters fired a missile at the USS Carney, the first time the group targeted a U.S. warship. The destroyer fired the missile without causing any injuries.
The week before, the U.S. military announced that two Navy SEALs were lost at sea after falling overboard while attempting to board an Iranian ship carrying “advanced conventional weapons” to the Houthis. Rebels delivered.
Republicans in Congress reacted angrily to news of the attack and called on the Biden administration to retaliate against Iran. House Speaker Mike Johnson said the administration must “send a crystal clear message to the entire world that attacks on our troops will not be tolerated.” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a prominent Republican defense activist, said the U.S. should strike “key targets” inside Iran itself to deter future attacks.
“Hit Iran now,” Graham said. “Hit her hard.”
A Jordanian government spokesman condemned Sunday's attack and said there were no casualties among Jordanian forces.
“Jordan will continue to combat terrorism and drug and weapons smuggling across the Syrian border into Jordan,” the spokesman said, referring to the drug fenethylline, sold as “Captagon,” an amphetamine used by terrorist groups in the Middle East East is used and largely produced by the Syrian Assad regime.
Margaret Brennan, David Martin, Nancy Cordes and Christina Ruffini contributed reporting.
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