Updated Jan 29, 2024 - World

3 U.S. service members killed in drone attack in Jordan

A U.S. solider wears an American Flag patch on his uniform.

A U.S. Army soldier in Europe in 2022. Photo: Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

Three U.S. soldiers were killed and dozens wounded in a drone strike by a pro-Iranian militia on a U.S. outpost in northeast Jordan overnight, President Biden said in a statement on Sunday.

Why it matters: This is the most serious attack on U.S. forces in the Middle East since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attack and it is the first such attack in Jordan.

  • The Hamas attack, and the resulting war with Israel, have marked an escalation of tension and skirmishes in the region, including Houthis targeting ships crossing the Red Sea.

Of note: CNN first reported on the attack — which Iran's foreign ministry denied on Monday, according to Iranian state media.

What they're saying: "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. … And have no doubt — we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner our choosing," Biden said.

Meanwhile, the Iranian state-run IRNA news agency reports that Tehran's foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said: "These claims are made with specific political goals to reverse the realities of the region."

 An infographic titled 'Three US service members killed, dozens injured in drone attack' created in Ankara, Turkiye on January 28, 2024.
An infographic map of the region where the attack took place. Photo: Elmurod Usubaliev/Anadolu via Getty Images

Driving the news: U.S. Central Command said in a statement that 25 U.S. soldiers were wounded in the attack.

  • The attack occurred at an outpost known as Tower 22, located near the Syrian border.
  • Jonathan Lord, a senior fellow at CNAS and a former Department of Defense official, said the outpost sits at the intersection of the borders of Jordan, Iraq and Syria.
  • It is key terrain in close proximity to areas the Kataib Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian militia, has seized, Lord said.

The other side: A Jordanian government spokesman claimed the attack was not on a U.S. base in Jordan, but against the al-Tanf base in Syria.

  • The spokesperson later walked back the statement, acknowledging the attack took place on the Jordanian-Syrian border. He also condemned the attack and said U.S. soldiers are assisting Jordan with border protection and counterterrorism efforts.

The big picture: The Pentagon said there have been more than 150 attacks on U.S. bases and forces in Syria, Iraq and the Red Sea since Oct. 7.

  • A strike on U.S. forces in Iraq on Christmas Day resulted in three injuries to service members, including one classified as critical.
  • President Biden ordered retaliatory strikes on the Kataib Hezbollah, who claimed credit for that attack, on Dec. 26.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with an infographic image and comment from Jordanian government and Iranian foreign ministry spokespeople.

Go deeper