Illustrative. Jordanian soldiers patrol near the eastern Jordan-Syria border, in al-Washash, Mafraq governorate, Jordan, on Feb. 17, 2022, during a media tour organized by the Jordanian army.
US President Mr. Biden blames Iran-backed militias for strike on American soldiers, vows to hold them ‘responsible,’ while Amman claims attack took place on Syrian side of border .
Three US service members were killed and “many” were wounded in a drone strike in Jordan, President Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday, attributing the attack to “radical Iran-backed militia groups.”
They were the first US fatalities in months of strikes against American forces across the Middle East by Iranian-backed militias amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, increasing the risk of escalation.
US officials were still working to conclusively identify the precise group responsible for the attack, but have assessed that one of several Iranian-backed groups are responsible.
Biden said the United States “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing.”
President Joe Biden speaks at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024.
US troops long have used Jordan as a basing point, and the attack took place in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border. US Central Command said 25 service members were injured in the attack in addition to the three killed.
At least 34 personnel were being evaluated for possible traumatic brain injury, a US official told Reuters. Some 3,000 American troops typically are stationed in Jordan.
Jordanian state television quoted Muhannad Mubaidin, a government spokesman, as insisting the attack happened outside of the kingdom across the border in Syria. The conflicting information could not be immediately reconciled.
Since Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip began, US troops in Iraq and Syria have faced drone and missile attacks on their bases. The recent attack marks the first targeting of American troops in Jordan during the war.
US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been targeted in more than 150 attacks since mid-October, according to the Pentagon, and Washington has carried out retaliatory strikes in both countries.
Biden, who was in Columbia, South Carolina on Sunday, was briefed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Syria is still in the midst of a civil war and long has been a launch pad for Iranian-backed forces there, including the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. Iraq has multiple Iranian-backed Shiite militias operating there as well.
Jordan, a staunch Western ally and a crucial power in Jerusalem for its oversight of holy sites there, is suspected of launching airstrikes in Syria to disrupt drug smugglers, including one that killed nine people earlier this month.