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US identifies three soldiers killed in attack in Jordan

The three US soldiers killed in the drone attack on a US military outpost in Jordan were identified Monday as Sgt. William Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia; Specialist Kennedy Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and Specialist Breonna Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia, according to the Defense Department.

They were all assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, a US Army Reserve unit based out of Fort Moore, Georgia, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said at a briefing.

More than 40 were injured in the attack, according to Singh, a number that could possibly increase. The drone hit a housing facility on the base where many service members were asleep in the early morning hours, leading to the high number of casualties, she said.

These undated photos from the US Army Reserve Command show Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23. - US Army Reserve Command, AP
These undated photos from the US Army Reserve Command show Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23. - US Army Reserve Command, AP

Singh said Monday that eight personnel who were medically evacuated were taken to Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center. Three of those service members will be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for follow-on care and the other five are expected to return to duty after being assessed for mild traumatic brain injuries. A US official previously told CNN that all eight had been evacuated to Landstuhl.

The drone approached the US military outpost, Tower 22, around the same time an American drone was returning to the base, which led to uncertainty over whether it was hostile and caused a delay to the US response, two US officials told CNN.

The enemy drone followed the American drone as it approached, but it is not clear whether the enemy drone intentionally followed the American one or if it was a coincidence, one of the officials said. The enemy drone also flew low, which may have allowed it to evade the base’s air defenses, officials said. US officials are also still assessing the drone’s point of origin.

The attack on Sunday marked a significant escalation after roughly 165 attacks on US and coalition forces since October 17, further raising concerns over a broader conflict breaking out in the Middle East while the US and its allies navigate rising tensions on multiple fronts. A US official told CNN that there have been six attacks since Friday, including Sunday’s drone attack and a multi-rocket attack on Patrol Base Shaddadi in Syria on Monday morning.

While Iran-backed militia groups have launched continuous attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria — leading to one serious injury and dozens of others that officials have described as fairly minor — the US has also been taking action against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen for their attacks on commercial shipping. Meanwhile, Israel is continuing its campaign in Gaza against Hamas, and launching attacks on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The consensus is that an Iran-backed militia group is behind the deadly drone attack, though the US is still working to determine which group specifically is responsible. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN’s Phil Mattingly on Monday that the White House believes “the group was supported by Kataib Hezbollah, which is one of the main IRGC Revolutionary Guard-core backed groups in Iraq and Syria.”

“This one had lethal consequences in ways that previous ones didn’t,” Kirby said, “but that doesn’t mean that the intent of the previous attacks weren’t also lethal, it’s just that we were able to defeat them.”

Singh also said Monday that the attack bore the “fingerprints” of Kataib Hezbollah.

The US has already struck sites in Iraq associated with the group in recent weeks, and earlier this month targeted a member of the group that a US official said had “US blood on his hands.”

On Monday morning ahead of a meeting at the Pentagon with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his “outrage and sorrow” over the deaths of the three American troops.

“Let me start with my outrage and sorrow for the death of three brave US troops in Jordan, and for the other troops who were wounded,” Austin said. “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.”

Family members talk about their loved ones

Sanders’ parents told CNN’s Erin Burnett they want their daughter to be remembered for her service, sacrifice and how she lived.

“I just want people to remember that, you know, even though her time was short on Earth, she lived her life to the fullest and she enjoyed her life. In any situation that she was in, she made it enjoyable. Even being deployed she found different things to do to pass her time,” like learning a new language, practicing jiu-jitsu or crocheting, Oneida Oliver-Sanders said Monday on “OutFront.”

Asked about a US response to the deadly attack, Oliver-Sanders said, “Whatever is decided will not ease our pain at any level. Kennedy still has battle buddies who are still left there, and I know if it was her decision, she would definitely be very concerned about their safety, so you know, whatever happens won’t change our situation at all.”

Sanders’ parents confirmed they have a call scheduled with the Biden administration.

Moffett’s mother, Francine, told CNN’s Abby Phillip she was the first woman in the family to join the military and that her daughter had decided on the same career path.

“She became the second female in the family to join the military. And she was very proud of herself. And I was always very proud of her because if that’s the route she wanted to take, I wanted her to do that. She honored her service, and she was always proud to be in the military,” she said on “NewsNight.”

Moffett’s parents said she was thinking of reenlisting. They said that when she deployed for the first time last August she had not known what to expect.

Francine Moffett said that in her last conversation with her daughter, she “wanted me to send her a package, and I did. And in that package was her real estate book, and some clothes. But most important that was to her, was her strawberry shortcake snack cakes – and her sunflower seeds. She’s like, ‘Do not forget that.’ She had not had it and that’s what she wanted.”

She continued, “We just talked about her care package, and she was just like smiling. She was actually getting ready to go to chow when I talked to her last time. She’s like, ‘Mom, I’mma call you back.’ And I didn’t hear from her again. I didn’t hear from her.”

Moffett’s parents said they are waiting to hear from Biden.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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