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Iran Shoots Down U.S. Military Drone in ‘Unprovoked Attack’

U.S. airmen prepare an MQ-9 Reaper drone at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, in 2016. (Josh Smith/Reuters)

On Thursday, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone that the country claims was flying over Iranian air space in the southern Gulf region, further escalating tensions between the two nations.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps website said the “spy” drone was shot down over the southern province of Hormozgan. The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, said the drone was flying in international air space over the Strait of Hormuz, a major thoroughfare through which one-third of the world’s global oil supply flows.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false,” Captain Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

The Navy’s MQ-4C Triton drone, which costs roughly $180 million and provides real-time intelligence and surveillance to forces on the ground, was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, U.S. Central Command said. The Iranians also unsuccessfully attempted to shoot down a second drone.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have continued to escalate since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 international nuclear accord last year. There have been six explosive attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz since May. While Iranian officials have denied responsibility for the attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that Iran is the only actor in the region with the capacity to execute the sophisticated operations.

In response to the most recent spate of attacks last week, the Pentagon announced on Monday the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East in addition to the 1,500 troops deployed to the region after the tanker attacks in May.

A commander for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the Trump administration declared a terrorist organization earlier this year, said the attack should serve as a “clear message” to the U.S.

“We do not have any intention for war with any country, but we are fully ready for war,” Revolutionary Guard commander general Hossein Salami said in a televised address.

Asked about the incident Thursday morning, President Trump told reporters that Iran made a “big mistake” by further escalating hostilities with the U.S. When asked by a reporter at the White House if he would launch a strike against Iran in response, Trump said “you’ll find out.”

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