Militants suspected of killing 3 US soldiers in Jordan airstrike pause operations amid warnings of retaliation

31 January 2024, 05:29

A militant group suspected of attacking US troops has paused operations
A militant group suspected of attacking US troops has paused operations. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

A militant group accused of killing three US soldiers in a drone strike on a base in Jordan has suspended operations.

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Iraqi terrorist group Kata'ib Hezbollah is among the suspects for Saturday's attack on the Tower 22 base, which also left more than 40 wounded.

The US has vowed to take "all necessary actions" in response to the strikes, as the UK urged Iran, believed to be supporting the attackers, to de-escalate.

The group announced "the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government".

But the US has not fully determined yet who attacked its north-east Jordan base on Saturday, killing reservists William Jerome Rivers, 46, Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23.

Read more: US to take 'all necessary actions' after airstrike kills 3 soldiers, amid warnings of impact on Gaza hostage talks

Read more: Britain set to deploy aircraft carrier to Red Sea to counter Iran-backed Houthi attacks

Kataib Hezbollah have suspended operations
Kataib Hezbollah have suspended operations. Picture: Getty

Kata'ib Hezbollah, which was founded in the aftermath of the Iraq war in 2003, is backed by Iran and views the US as occupiers in the Middle East.

The group is technically answerable to the Iraqi government, but has ignored calls from its ministers to stop attacking American troops.

The US has considered it a terrorist group since 2009, and killed its leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in 2020 at Baghdad Airport.

Pentagon's former Middle East Advisor explains what will happen next after Iran-backed drone strike kills US troops

Saturday's 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.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said he felt "outrage and sorrow" for the three soldiers' deaths "and for the other troops who were wounded."

He added: "The president and I will not tolerate attacks on U.S. forces and we will take all necessary actions to defend the U.S. and our troops."

Meanwhile US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the US' response "could be multi-levelled, come in stages and be sustained over time."

But the White House has also said it does not want a war with Iran, and suggested that Tehran feels the same way.

The Pentagon has named three US soldiers who were killed in Jordan over the weekend
The Pentagon has named three US soldiers who were killed in Jordan over the weekend. Picture: Planet PBC

"We are not seeking a conflict with the regime in the military way," national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

The drone which led to the three soldiers' deaths in Jordan may have got into the US base by mistake.

The Iranian drone arrived at the same time as a returning American drone, meaning parts of the base's defence system were down.

It means the drone may have been confused with an American drone returning to the US installation.

It comes amid Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza and US and UK attacks on Houthi rebels in Yemen targeting commercial ships - as some fear that the Middle East faces being engulfed in a full-scale regional conflict.