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US military says Iran shoot down of its drone was 'unprovoked attack'

Took place in international airspace
FILE PHOTO: The MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft system completes its inaugural cross-country ferry flight at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, US, September 18, 2014. US Navy/Handout via REUTERS
2019-06-20

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SULAIMANI — The US military confirmed on Thursday (June 20) that one of its drones was shot down but said the incident took place in international airspace, challenging Iran’s account that the US aircraft had been flying over Iranian territory.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command.

“This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace.”

He said the shoot-down took place in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019.

Sepah News, the website of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said the “spy” drone was brought down over the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan, which is on the Gulf.

A US official said the drone was a US Navy MQ-4C Triton and that it had been shot down in international air space over the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of the world’s seaborne oil exits the Gulf..

A Revolutionary Guards statement said the drone’s identification transponder had been switched off “in violation of aviation rules and was moving in full secrecy” when it was downed, Iranian state broadcaster IRIB reported.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned what it called a violation of Iranian air space by the drone and warned of the consequences of such “illegal and provocative” measures.

The US military has in recent days confirmed an attempt by Iran to shoot down a US drone last week as well as the successful shooting down of one on June 6 by Iran-aligned Houthi forces in Yemen.

Tension between Iran and the United States has spiked since last year when President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers and reimposed sanctions on it.

Concern about a military confrontation has increased since attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week and on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates on May 12, both near the Strait of Hormuz, a major conduit for global oil supplies.

The United States and its regional ally, Saudi Arabia, blamed Iran for the incidents. Iran has denied responsibility.

The US military has sent forces, including aircraft carriers, B-52 bombers and troops to the Middle East. However, Trump said he does not seek war with Iran.

Iran said last week that it was responsible for the security of the Strait of Hormuz, calling on American forces to leave the Gulf.

In protest at Trump’s “maximum pressure”, in May Iran said it would start enriching uranium at a higher level unless other European signatories to the nuclear deal protected its economy from the US sanctions within 60 days.

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)