Enemy drone that killed US troops in Jordan was mistaken for a US drone, report suggests

An enemy drone that killed three American troops and wounded dozens of others in Jordan may have been confused with an American drone returning to the US installation, two US officials said on Monday.

As the enemy drone was flying in at a low altitude, a US drone was returning to the small desert installation known as Tower 22 and may have been let pass by mistake, according to a preliminary report cited by the officials, who were not authorised to comment and insisted on anonymity.

As a result, there was no effort to shoot down the enemy drone that hit the outpost early on Sunday morning. One of the trailers where troops sleep received the brunt of the strike, while surrounding trailers sustained limited damage from the blast and flying debris.

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US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin. Photo: EPA-EFE

Officials said that of the 34 wounded troops, most had cuts, bruises, traumatic brain injuries and similar wounds. Eight were medically evacuated and the most seriously hurt service member is in critical but stable condition.

The preliminary conclusion was first reported by The Wall Street Journal newspaper. The White House declined to comment on the finding.

Explanation for how the enemy drone evaded US air defences on the installation came as the White House said on Monday it is not looking for war with Iran even as US President Joe Biden vows retaliatory action. The Democratic administration believes Tehran was behind the strike.

Biden met members of his national security team in the White House Situation Room to discuss the latest developments.

The brazen attack adds another layer of complexity to an already tense Middle East situation as the Biden administration tries to keep the Israel-Gaza war from expanding into a broader regional conflict.

Biden vows response after drone attack kills 3 US troops in Jordan

“The president and I will not tolerate attacks on US forces, and we will take all necessary actions to defend the US and our troops,” Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday as he met Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Pentagon.

Biden faces a difficult balancing act as he looks to strike back against Tehran in a forceful way without allowing the Gaza conflict to grow. The drone attack was one of dozens on US troops in the Middle East since Hamas launched attacks on Israel on October 7, igniting the war in Gaza. But it is the first in which American service members have been killed.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated a day after Biden promised to “hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing” that the US administration was not seeking to get into another conflict in the Middle East.

But Kirby also made clear that the American patience has worn thin after more than two months of attacks by Iranian proxies on US troops in Iraq, Syria and Jordan and on the US Navy and commercial vessels in the Red Sea. The groups – including Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Iraq based Kataeb Hezbollah – say the attacks are in response to Israel’s continuing military operations in Gaza.

“We are not looking for a war with Iran. We are not looking to escalate the tensions any more than they already have been escalating,” Kirby told reporters. “That said, this was a very serious attack. It had lethal consequences. We will respond, and we respond appropriately.”

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Iran on Monday denied it was behind the Jordan strike.

“These claims are made with specific political goals to reverse the realities of the region,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying. Iran regularly denies involvement in attacks linked back to it through the militias it arms across the wider Middle East.

Iraqi authorities on Monday condemned the attack, with government spokesman Bassem al-Awadi adding that it was willing “to collaborate on establishing fundamental rules to prevent further repercussions in the region and curb the escalation of conflict”.

Al-Awadi said Iraq is “monitoring with a great concern the alarming security developments in the region” and called for “an end to the cycle of violence”. The statement said Iraq is ready to take part in diplomatic efforts to prevent further escalation.

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03:20

Pakistan retaliates with missile strikes into Iran, killing 9 after Tehran attack on Pakistan soil

Pakistan retaliates with missile strikes into Iran, killing 9 after Tehran attack on Pakistan soil

Iraq’s foreign ministry stressed in a statement late on Monday “the importance of regional de-escalation”.

The ministry said it was “necessary” to allow the continuing negotiations with Washington to play out.

An armed faction of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, Harakat al-Nujaba, said in a statement on Monday that the United States should “learn the lesson and leave today … For every day that passes, they will pay a heavy price”.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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