U.S., Jordan troops hold desert war games

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U.S. and Jordanian F-16 fighter jets attacked dummy targets in the kingdom’s southern desert on Wednesday, while Navy SEALs and other special forces rescued “hostages” and nabbed “terrorists” in mock exercises under major multinational maneuverers.

Using live ammunition, six F-16s, two AV-8B Harrier jets, 28 tanks, 20 armored personnel carriers and 800 U.S. and Jordanian troops took part in a 45-minute drill in Quweira close to the Red Sea port of Aqaba as part of “Eager Lion 2013,” which wraps up on Thursday.

Fighters, attack helicopters and tanks hit ground targets as Jordan’s army chief, General Mashal Mohammad Zaben, and King Abdullah II’s brother, Prince Faisal watched.

“The goal of the drill is to boost and enhance the capabilities and performance of the Jordanian Armed Forces, including ways to deal with situations in which refugees are involved,” Colonel Mekhled Suheim, Eager Lion spokesman, told journalists watching the exercise.

Jordan says it is home to more than 500,000 refugees from next-door Syria and its brutal civil war.

“Eager Lion 2013 is a great opportunity to share expertise and boost capabilities (of troops),” Brigadier General Gregg P. Olson of the Marine Corps Forces Central Command said as he mingled with journalists.

Following the drill in Quweira, the army drove journalists about 50 kilometers to Aqaba’s anti-terrorist unit.

Some 50 U.S. Navy SEALs as well as Jordanian and Iraqi special operations troops took part in a 30-minute mock exercise to rescue hostages on a ship “hijacked” by pirates off the coast of Aqaba.

Eight Jordanian gunboats and three attack helicopters intercepted the ship. Masked frogmen boarded it and took control before rescuing the hostages.

“This is a difficult exercise because the target is moving,” said a U.S. officer as he observed the operation.

Frogmen later raided a building on the beach in another mock drill to arrest the mock terrorists, using colored smoke bombs and tear gas.

Suheim said the destroy USS Stockdale will leave Jordanian waters after Eager Lion concludes.

Around 4,500 US troops, 3,000 Jordanian soldiers and 500 observers from 19 countries are participating in the 12-day exercise.

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