Iranian officials say air defenses shot down ‘foreign’ drone in country’s south

Security forces examining remains of aircraft, local governor says, after it was downed in Iranian airspace near port city of Mahshahr

Iranians visit a weaponry and military equipment exhibition in the capital Tehran on Febraury 2, 2019, organized on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Illustrative: Iranians visit a weaponry and military equipment exhibition in the capital Tehran on February 2, 2019, organized on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iran’s military on Friday downed an “unknown” drone in the country’s southwest, officials and local media reported.

The state-run IRNA news agency said air defense forces hit the drone earlier in the morning near the port city of Mahshahr, which is in the oil-rich Khuzestan province and lies on the Persian Gulf.

Khuzestan Governor Gholamreza Shariati told IRNA that the drone definitely belonged to a “foreign” country and that its remains were being salvaged.

“Security forces and experts have begun investigating it,” he said. “The results of the expert reviews will be made public after they are determined.”

The Tasnim news agency said the unmanned aircraft was downed over Iranian territory with a domestically manufactured Mersad surface-to-air missile.

Illustrative photo of a UAV, June 2010. (Ofer Zidon/ Flash90)

The reports did not say whether the drone was a military or commercially available device.

The accidential crash of an Iranian drone in the same province on October 23 prompted newspaper reports that an unidentified foreign aircraft had been shot down. The conservative Fars news agency later revealed that the drone was Iranian and had been forced to make an emergency landing.

In June Tehran shot down an American drone saying it had violated its airspace. The US military said the drone was in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz when it was shot down, though the New York Times quoted a senior administration  official as saying that there was some doubt whether either of the US aircraft did violate Iranian airspace at some point

The US prepared for strikes to retaliate, but US President Donald Trump called them off at the last moment after being told some 150 people could die. The aborted attack was the closest the US has come to a direct military strike on Iran in the year since the administration pulled out of the 2015 international agreement intended to curb the Iranian nuclear program and launched a campaign of increasing economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.

In this file photo taken on April 30, 2019, Iranian military personnel ride in a patrol boat as they take part in the ‘National Persian Gulf Day’ in the Strait of Hormuz (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Tensions have risen considerably in the Persian Gulf in recent months. Since May, there have been a series of oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz, the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes. While Tehran denies being involved, the US Navy says Iran used magnetic mines on the vessels. The Navy released video it said showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard members taking an unexploded mine off one vessel, an incident still not explained by Tehran.

Iran claims its own vessels have also been damaged in attacks.

Iran has also seized several oil tankers amid the heightened tensions.

Compounding tensions, Tehran on Thursday resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordo plant in a new step back from its commitments under the 2015 deal, leading US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to warn it could be “positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout.”

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