The U.S. military increased the number of injured troops in the drone attack on a Jordan military base that killed three to at least 34, according to a statement released Sunday night.
Eight troops required medical evacuation from Jordan to receive more advanced care at an undisclosed location, but all are in stable condition, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the military’s mideast component, said in a statement. At least 350 U.S. Army and Air Force service members are deployed at a base known as Tower 22, where they help with logistics in coordination with the Jordanian military, including to support the multinational effort to defeat the Islamic State, CENTCOM said.
The number of injured in the attack could still increase if more troops begin to develop symptoms, CENTCOM said.
An explosive-laden drone crashed near the living quarters of the base and caused injuries with varying degrees of severity, including minor cuts and brain trauma, a U.S. official told The New York Times. Most of the troops were reservists. (RELATED: US Holding Talks With Iraqi Gov’t To Reevaluate Anti-ISIS Partnership That Could Include Troop Drawdown)
President Joe Biden blamed Iranian-backed militant groups for the attack in a statement Sunday afternoon, although the facts of the incident were still being assessed. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also released a statement condemning the attack, but did not identify a perpetrator or say where the drone originated.
“Three U.S. service members were killed — and many wounded — during an unmanned aerial drone attack on our forces stationed in northeast Jordan near the Syria border,” Biden said. “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.”
Later on Sunday, Biden vowed to retaliate for the loss of three troops.
A loose coalition of Iran-backed militants claimed responsibility for the attack as a “continuation of our approach to resisting the American occupation forces in Iraq and the region,” according to the NYT.
Iran denied any association with the attacks on Monday, the NYT reported.
The militias “do not take orders” from Tehran and oppose “any aggression and occupation” of their own accord, Nasser Kanaani, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, said, according to the NYT. Accusations that Iran directed the attack are “baseless,” and the U.S. and Israel are exploiting the attack to generate further instability in the region.
Tower 22 is located near the Al-Tanf garrison in Syria, which has been subject to multiple attacks from Iranian-backed militant groups since Oct. 17.
As of Monday, it was still unclear why air defenses failed to engage and shoot down the drone. Troops on base may have confused the enemy drone closing in with a U.S. drone that was returning to base close to the same time, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.
Iranian-backed militants have attacked U.S. troops based in Iraq and Syria nearly 160 times, the Pentagon has said.
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