x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Iran claims to have captured US drone over Arabian Gulf

Iran's state TV said that the country's Revolutionary Guard has captured a US drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Arabian Gulf.

TEHRAN // Iran's state TV said that the country's Revolutionary Guard has captured a US drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Arabian Gulf.

The report quoted the Guard's navy chief, Gen Ali Fadavi, as saying that the Iranian forces caught the "intruding" drone, which had apparently taken off from a United States aircraft carrier.

Gen Fadavi said the unmanned Scan Eagle aircraft was now in Iran's possession.

"The US drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance flight and gathering data over the Gulf in the past few days, was captured by the Guard's navy air defence unit as soon as it entered Iranian airspace," Gen Fadavi said. "Such drones usually take off from large warships."

He did not provide any further details nor said when the incident happened. There was no immediate comment from the US Navy's 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain.

If true, the seizure of the drone would be the third reported incident involving Iran and US drones in the past two years.

Last month, Iran claimed that a US drone had violated its airspace. Pentagon said the unmanned aircraft came under fire - at least twice but was not hit - and that the Predator was over international waters.

The November 1 shooting in the Gulf was unprecedented, and further escalated tensions between the United States and Iran, which is under international sanctions over its suspect nuclear programme. Tehran denies it is pursuing a nuclear weapon and insists its programme is for peaceful purposes only.

In 2011, Iran claimed it brought down a CIA spy drone after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which is equipped with stealth technology, was captured almost intact.

Tehran later said it recovered data from the top-secret drone.

In the case of the Sentinel, after initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, US officials eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.

The US and its allies believe Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation and cancer treatment.