The drone that crashed into a base in Jordan and killed three U.S. service members evaded defenses by trailing a U.S.-operated drone that was returning to the base at the same time, Politico reported Monday, citing a Department of Defense (DOD) official.
The explosive-laden drone originated from somewhere in Iraq and exploded near the living quarters of Jordan’s Tower 22 base near the Syrian border, killing three U.S. troops and injuring at least 34, mostly reservists. About 90 minutes later, an enemy drone targeted the al-Tanf Garrison nearby in Syria, according to the DOD official and another U.S. official, Politico reported. But a U.S. counter-drone unmanned aerial system, Raytheon’s Coyote, shot it down, the DOD official said.
Tower 22 and the al-Tanf garrison are just miles apart. U.S. drones sometimes defend both, the U.S. official said, according to Politico.
Iran-backed militants saw an “opportunity” and “exploited” it, the DOD official told Politico, speaking anonymously to discuss the still-developing situation.
It was initially unclear how air defenses on base failed to shoot down the drone, and the Pentagon is still assessing the circumstances surrounding the incident. U.S. troops based in Iraq and Syria — and now Jordan for the first time — have faced rocket, drone and missile attacks more than 160 times since Oct. 17.
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 first reported, citing U.S. officials. However, Politico’s response suggests the simultaneous arrival allowed the enemy drone to conceal itself from U.S. detection.
The drone originated in Iraq, according to the WSJ. So far, the U.S. doesn’t have proof that Iran directed the attack, a U.S. official told the outlet, and Tehran has denied any official involvement.
The attack signified a major escalation, resulting for the first time in U.S. service members killed. A Dec. 25 attack on a base in Iraq critically wounded a service member, who is recovering in the hospital and at least 70 U.S. troops had sustained minor or concussive wounds prior to Sunday.
President Joe Biden faces mounting pressure to respond to Sunday’s attack, according to Politico.
Biden called the attack “despicable and wholly unjust.”
“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.”
Biden vowed to retaliate for the loss of these three service members.
“We will carry on their commitment to fight terrorism,” he said. “And have no doubt — we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing.”
U.S. Central Command did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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