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Memorial Day ceremony held in Baghdad to honor US Army soldiers killed in Iranian-backed drone attack

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Memorial Day ceremony held in Baghdad to honor US Army soldiers killed in Iranian-backed drone attack

U.S. Military personnel stationed in Baghdad, Iraq held a Memorial Day service Monday to honor the three U.S. Army soldiers who were killed in a drone attack in Jordan earlier this year. 

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve presented the ceremonial wreath at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Union III base, in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Those in attendance paid their respects to the fallen service members. 

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. J.B. Vowell, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Commanding General, writes the name of a fallen service member on the Memorial Day wall during a ceremony at Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2024.  (U.S. Army)

Staff Sgt. William Rivers, 46, Sgt. Kennedy Sanders, 24, and Sgt. Breonna Moffett, 23, were killed Jan. 28 after a drone attack by an Iranian proxy group hit Tower 22, a small U.S. outpost in northeast Jordan, on the Iraq, Syria, Jordan tri-border, where they were stationed. 

BIDEN ADMIN REVERSES COURSE, GRANTS PERMIT FOR CATHOLIC GROUP’S MEMORIAL DAY MASS AT NATIONAL CEMETERY

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L-R: Sgt. William Rivers, Spc. Breonna Moffett, and Spc. Kennedy Sanders.  (Fox News )

The soldiers had been stationed at Tower 22 just across the border from Syria to support the mission to defeat ISIS. 

At its height, over 100,000 people lived there, blocked by Jordan from entering into the kingdom at a time when concerns about infiltration by the extremist group were rampant. Those concerns grew out of a 2016 car bomb attack there, that killed seven Jordanian border guards.

Operation Inherent Resolve soldiers stand in formation and salute the United States flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2024. (U.S. Army)

The camp has dwindled in the time since to some 7,500 people because of a lack of supplies, per United Nations estimates.

The Memorial Day Wall at Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2024.  (U.S. Army)

The base began as a Jordanian border observation outpost, then saw an increased U.S. presence after American forces entered Syria in late 2015. The small installation includes U.S. engineering, aviation, logistics and security troops with about 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel deployed there.

A U.S Army soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New Jersey National Guard, plays Amazing Grace on bagpipes during the Memorial Day ceremony at Union III in Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2024. (U.S. Army)

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Rivers, Sanders and Moffett were all assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Fort Moore, Georgia, previously known as Fort Benning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Canadian national pleads guilty to stealing Tesla trade secrets

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Canadian national pleads guilty to stealing Tesla trade secrets
A Canadian resident of China pleaded guilty in New York federal court on Thursday to stealing Tesla electric-vehicle battery manufacturing trade secrets and conspiring to sell them to undercover government agents, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
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Ship hit twice in apparent Houthi cruise missile attack off Yemeni coast

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Ship hit twice in apparent Houthi cruise missile attack off Yemeni coast
  • A commercial ship was reportedly struck twice Thursday by Houthi-fired cruise missiles in the Gulf of Aden.
  • The Palauan-flagged M/V Verbena was still on fire at the time of U.S. Central Command’s report, and the mariner was flown via helicopter to another vessel for medical treatment.
  • “The M/V Verbena reported damage and subsequent fires on board. The crew continues to fight the fire,” a statement by Central Command said.

The U.S. said Thursday that the Iranian-backed Houthis launched two anti-ship cruise missiles and struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden off Yemen, setting it on fire and severely injuring one civilian mariner.

U.S. Central Command said the M/V Verbena was still ablaze and the mariner was flown by a U.S. helicopter based on the USS Philippine Sea to another nearby ship for medical treatment.

In a statement, Central Command said the Verbena is a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned and Polish-operated bulk cargo carrier that had docked in Malaysia and was on its way to Italy carrying wood. “The M/V Verbena reported damage and subsequent fires on board. The crew continues to fight the fire,” the statement said.

HOUTHIS CLAIM ‘AMERICAN-ISRAELI SPY NETWORK’ MEMBERS ARRESTED

The attack is the latest such assault in the Houthis’ campaign over the Israel-Hamas war.

Earlier Thursday, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said a vessel had been attacked and had caught fire. And the private security firm Ambrey said a merchant vessel made a radio distress call saying it had been struck by a missile.

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A fighter jet parks on the deck of the USS aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as IKE, in the Red Sea, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge Thursday’s attacks, but it typically takes the rebels hours or even days to claim them. The attack follows the Houthis launching a boat-borne bomb attack against a commercial ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday.

The Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital nearly a decade ago and have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition since shortly after, have been targeting shipping throughout the Red Sea corridor.

They say the attacks are aimed at stopping the war and supporting the Palestinians, though the attacks often target vessels that have nothing to do with the conflict.

The war in Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there, according to Gaza health officials, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

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The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration. A U.S.-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

Also Thursday, the Washington-based National Democratic Institute said three of its staff were detained by the Houthis earlier this month. Their detention comes as staff of United Nations agencies and those working for aid groups also have been detained in a widening crackdown by the rebels.

“This arbitrary and inhumane treatment of Yemeni citizens involved in humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, democracy and human rights, peacemaking and civil society development is entirely without foundation and must be ended immediately,” the institute said. It called for the “swift release by the Houthi regime of our staff, and of all individuals who have been unjustly detained.”

The institute is a democracy promotion organization that has worked in Yemen since 1993. It receives funding from the U.S. government and others.

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Russia says US journalist Evan Gershkovich to face trial for ‘CIA work’

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Russia says US journalist Evan Gershkovich to face trial for ‘CIA work’

Wall Street Journal rejects ‘false and baseless’ charge against 32-year-old reporter who has been in custody since March 2023.

Russian prosecutors have said US journalist Evan Gershkovich will face trial in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, where he was detained more than a year ago after he was accused of working for the CIA.

Gershkovich, 32, is accused of “gathering secret information” on orders from the CIA about Uralvagonzavod, a facility that produces and repairs military equipment, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement, revealing for the first time the details of the accusations against him. The statement gave no date for the trial.

Gershkovich, a journalist with the Wall Street Journal, has been in jail since he was arrested in Yekaterinburg, about 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) east of Moscow, on March 29, 2023, and was accused of spying. He denies any wrongdoing.

Following the Russian announcement, the Journal said that Gershkovich was facing “a false and baseless charge”. A joint statement from Almar Latour, the newspaper’s publisher, and its editor-in-chief, Emma Tucker, demanded Gershkovich’s immediate release.

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“Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous,” the statement said.

“Evan has spent 441 days wrongfully detained in a Russian prison for simply doing his job. Evan is a journalist. The Russian regime’s smearing of Evan is repugnant, disgusting and based on calculated and transparent lies.”

Gershkovich at his appearance in a Moscow court on April 23 [Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo]

The United States designated Gershkovich “wrongfully detained” in April 2023, and President Joe Biden has called his detention “totally illegal”.

Latour and Tucker said they now expected the US government to step up efforts to secure his release.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington would continue to work to bring Gershkovich home.

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“Evan has done nothing wrong. He should never have been arrested in the first place. Journalism is not a crime,” Miller said. “The charges against him are false. And the Russian government knows that they’re false. He should be released immediately.”

Potential prisoner swap

Gershkovich was the first US journalist to be arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War, as Moscow enacted increasingly repressive laws on freedom of speech after sending troops into Ukraine. Washington has sought to negotiate his release, but Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Moscow would consider a prisoner swap only after a verdict in his trial.

Asked last week by The Associated Press news agency about Gershkovich, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the US was “taking energetic steps” to secure the journalist’s release. He told international news agencies in a rare news conference that any such releases “aren’t decided via mass media” but through a “discreet, calm and professional approach”.

“And they certainly should be decided only on the basis of reciprocity,” he added, alluding to a potential prisoner swap.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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The Uralvagonzavod factory, about 100km (60 miles) north of Yekaterinburg, has been sanctioned by Western countries. Based in the city of Nizhny Tagil in the Sverdlovsk region, it plays a crucial role in supplying tanks for Moscow’s war in Ukraine, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence.

The factory, which is run by a state conglomerate controlled by one of Putin’s allies, has publicly spoken of producing T-90M battle tanks and modernising T-72B3M tanks.

The number of tanks which Russia has lost in battle in Ukraine is a military secret in Russia, which says it has ramped up tank production.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank said in February that Russia had lost more than 3,000 tanks – the equivalent of its entire pre-war active inventory – but had enough lower-quality armoured vehicles in storage for years of replacements.

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