Tehran, June 20 (IANS) Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Thursday said in a statement that it shot down an “intruding” US spy drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran in the region over the past months.
In the statement, the IRGC said the US’ “RQ-4 Global Hawk” was brought down by its Air Force near the Kouh-e Mobarak region, which sits in the central district of Jask county, after the unmanned plane violated Iranian airspace, Press TV reported.
But the US military said it had been over international waters.
IRGC commander-in-chief Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami warned the US that it needed to respect Iran’s territorial integrity and national security, according to IRNA news agency.
“The downing of the American drone was a clear message to America… our borders are our red line and we will react strongly against any aggression.”
He added: “Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend the country.”
The US military denied flying the drone over the Iranian airspace. “No US aircraft were operating in Iranian airspace today,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the American military’s Central Command.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) can fly at high altitudes for more than 30 hours, gathering near real time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather, its maker Northrop Grumman said on its website.
Global Hawk’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations, reports say.
On Monday, the US Defence Department said it was deploying 1,000 extra troops to the region in response to “hostile behaviour” by Iranian forces.
Washington has also accused Tehran of attacking two oil tankers with mines last week just outside the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has rejected the allegation.
It was the second time in a month that tankers have been attacked close in the region, through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes each day.
Tensions were further fuelled on Monday when Iran announced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium would next week exceed the limits it agreed to with world powers under the landmark nuclear deal in 2015.
Iran stepped up its production in response to tightening economic sanctions from the US, which unilaterally withdrew from the deal last year.