WASHINGTON — Iran’s military shot down an unmanned American drone over its eastern territory, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Sunday.
“The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the Iranian armed forces,” Al Alam, Iran’s state television network, quoted an unidentified Iranian military source as saying. Iran called the incident a “violation of our airspace” and vowed an aggressive response.
The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan appeared to confirm that a drone had crashed in eastern Iran, saying that the aircraft Iranian media were referring to “may be a U.S. unarmed reconnaissance aircraft” that had been sent on a mission over western Afghanistan late last week and been lost. But it didn’t comment on Iranian claims that it had been shot down.
“The operators of the (drone) lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status,” said a statement from coalition forces in Kabul.
Pentagon officials had no immediate comment. Iran has previously announced that it shot down U.S. and Israeli drones in incidents that didn’t lead to a significant response.
The downed drone was an American-built RQ-170 Sentinel equipped with stealth technology, and had crossed into Iranian airspace from Afghanistan, an Iranian military official told IRNA.
The incident comes at a time of rising tension with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program. Tehran insists that the program will be only for domestic use, but Western nations and Israel, in particular, remain highly skeptical and worry that the true purpose is to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran has been under heavy international criticism in recent days over the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran last week by Iranians protesting new British sanctions against its central bank. Britain evacuated the embassy and expelled Iranian diplomats from London.
©2011 the McClatchy Washington Bureau
Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services