Sun | Feb 16, 2020

Eleven US troops flown to medical centres after Iran strike

Published:Friday | January 17, 2020 | 2:07 PM
Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a joint news conference with Japan's Defense Minister Taro Kono at the Pentagon in Washington, Tuesday, January 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Eleven United States troops were flown out of Iraq for evaluation of concussion-like symptoms in the days following an Iranian missile strike that President Donald Trump had said caused no harm to American forces, officials said Friday.

The Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said Defence Secretary Mark Esper did not know of the injuries until he was told Thursday afternoon that the 11 troops had been sent for evaluation at US medical facilities — eight in Germany and three in Kuwait.

Hoffman said the notification to Esper was in line with military procedures, which he said do not require notification of service member casualties to the Pentagon unless they involve the loss of life, limb or eyesight.

As recently as Tuesday night, Trump said he had been told no American had been harmed in the Iranian missile strike on January 8.

The question of American casualties was especially significant at the time because the missile attack’s results were seen as influencing a US decision on whether to retaliate and risk a broader war with Iran.

Trump chose not to retaliate, and the tensions with Iran have eased somewhat.

After Esper was notified of the possible brain injuries on Thursday, US Central Command put out a public statement saying “several” troops were treated for concussion symptoms from the missile blasts.

The AP had reported this on Monday when reporters were allowed to visit the attacked base, Ain al-Asad, in western Iraq.

Thursday’s statement said that “out of an abundance of caution,” some of the injured troops were flown out of Iraq for follow-on screening. Medical personnel at Ain al-Asad do not have a magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which can be used to diagnose brain injuries.

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