Iran has shot down a US drone in the strait of Hormuz, raising already heightened tensions in the region.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday they had shot down what they called a US “spy” drone they claimed was flying in in the country’s airspace.
The US military confirmed that one of its drones had been taken down, but said it was in international airspace.
Last week the US military accused Iran of firing a missile at another drone that responded to the oil tanker attacks near the Gulf of Oman.
Tensions in the Gulf have been heightened since 13 June, when the US accused Iran of attacking two tankers in the the Gulf of Oman with mines. The US military released footage it said showed the Iranian military removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of the tankers.
The state news agency said the downed drone was an RQ-4 Global Hawk. “It was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south,” the Guards’ website added. An unnamed US official told Reuters the drone was a US Navy MQ-4C Triton.
A senior Iranian security official said on Wednesday Iran would “strongly respond” to any violation of its airspace. “Our airspace is our red line and Iran has always responded and will continue to respond strongly to any country that violates our airspace,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security council as saying.
The shooting down on the drone came as US president Donald Trump was briefed on the details of a separate incident: a missile strike in Saudi Arabia that appeared to come from Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said on Wednesday in relation to the Saudi missile strike: “We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies.”
Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, who ousted the Saudi-backed internationally recognised government in late 2014, have stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities in the past two weeks.
Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch rival, has blamed Tehran for last week’s attack on two oil tankers. On 16 June Mohammed bin Salman vowed Saudi Arabia “won’t hesitate to deal with any threat” to the kingdom’s interests. Iran has denied any involvement.
Relations between Iran and the US have deteriorated since last year, when Trump announced the US would withdraw from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Iran recently has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, trying to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 deal.
In recent weeks, the US has deployed an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and added additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region.