Iran yesterday claimed to have captured a US spy drone over the Gulf but the US military has denied losing any unmanned aircraft in the Middle East.
The incident highlighted tensions as the Islamic Republic and the United States demonstrate their military capabilities in a stand-off over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz – through which about 40 per cent of the world’s seaborne crude oil is shipped – if it comes under attack. US commanders have said they will not let that happen.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards said on its website yesterday that the ScanEagle drone was “captured” when it strayed into Iranian airspace recently.
But US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain said no American drones had gone missing in the region in the past few days.
“The US navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the region. Our operations in the Gulf are confined to internationally recognised water and air space,” said Commander Jason Salata.
Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran had warned Washington over its violations and the drone was evidence of US incursions which it would use to pursue its complaint “via international bodies”.
The Guards’ statement did not specify when or where the drone was caught, or whether it was shot down or crashed. But it released what it said was video of a ScanEagle being examined by officials beneath a sign reading “We shall trample on the US” written in English.
The ScanEagle is a 4ft long drone made by Boeing.