Iran shot down a US spy drone Thursday near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, with the two sides at odds whether it was in Iranian or international airspace, in the latest incident stoking tensions between the arch-foes.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said the “US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone” was hit with a missile “after violating Iranian air space” over the waters of Hormozgan province.
The Pentagon confirmed a US surveillance drone was shot down by Iranian forces, but it insisted the unmanned aircraft was in international airspace.
The incident comes at a time of growing antagonism between Iran and the United States following two waves of still unexplained attacks on Gulf shipping, which Washington has blamed on Tehran.
Iran has denied any involvement and hinted the US might have orchestrated them itself to provide a pretext for the use of force against the Islamic republic.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said any use of force by the United States against Iran “would be a disaster for the region”.
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The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said the downing of the drone was “a clear message” his country will defend its borders.
Iran will “respond to all foreign aggression and our reaction is, and will be, categorical and absolute”, General Hossein Salami said, quoted by Tasnim news agency.
“We declare that we are not looking for war but we are ready to respond to any declaration of war,” he added.
The Pentagon said later in a statement that an Iranian surface-to-air missile had brought down a US Gold Hawk high-altitude drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” it said.
“This was an unprovoked attack on a US surveillance asset in international airspace.”
World oil prices rebounded strongly on the news, with London’s Brent North Sea crude up 2.78 percent to $63.54 per barrel in midday trading and New York’s West Texas Intermediate up 3.42 percent to $55.60.