Biden honours US soldiers killed in Jordan attack

President Joe Biden watches as an Army carry team moves the flag-draped transfer case containing the remains of U.S. Army Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Ga. during a casualty return at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Credit: AP

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden joined grieving families at Dover Air Force Base on Friday to honor the three American service members killed in a drone attack in Jordan.

The Bidens met privately with the families before the roughly 15-minute solemn ritual, called a dignified transfer, that has become relatively uncommon in recent years as the US has withdrawn from conflicts abroad.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among the Defense Department and administration officials who joined the Bidens for the proceedings.

The US has attributed the attack on Tower 22 in Jordan to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that includes the militant group Kataib Hezbollah.

Iran has denied involvement.

The service members killed were all from Georgia - Sgt. William Jerome Rivers of Carrollton, Sgt Kennedy Sanders of Waycross and Sgt Breonna Moffett of Savannah.

Sanders’ father, Shawn, in a posting on Facebook on Friday morning said that “kindness and outpouring of love” was “the only thing holding me up” since his daughter’s death.

“This is not the homecoming for Kennedy I dreamed about,” he said in the post. “Now, I can’t stop reliving this nightmare.”

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…

Rivers, Sanders and Moffett hailed from different corners of Georgia but were brought together in the same company of Army engineers that was based in Fort Moore. Sanders and Moffett, in particular, were close friends who regularly popped in on each other’s phone calls with their families back home.

Moffett had turned 23 years old just nine days before she was killed. She had joined the Army Reserves in 2019, but also worked for a home care provider to cook, clean and run errands for people with disabilities.

Credit: AP/PA

The deaths were the first US fatalities blamed on Iran-backed militia groups, who for months have been intensifying their attacks on American forces in the region following the onset of the Israel-Hamas war in October.

Speaking about the soldiers in a speech earlier this week, Biden said: “These service members embodied the very best of our nation: Unwavering in their bravery. Unflinching in their duty.

"Unbending in their commitment to our country — risking their own safety for the safety of their fellow Americans, and our allies and partners with whom we stand in the fight against terrorism.

“It is a fight we will not cease.”

His speech came shortly before US official announced retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed militia in the Middle East, targeting Syria and Iraq specifically.

Biden and other top US leaders have been warning for days that the US would strike back at the militias, and they made it clear that it wouldn’t be just one hit, but would be a “tiered response” over time.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...