Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it had shot down a US “spy drone” which violated Iranian airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, in the latest incident to stoke tension in the strategic sea lane.
There was no immediate reaction from the United States.
The US-manufactured Global Hawk surveillance drone was hit with a missile “after violating Iranian air space” over the waters of Hormozgan province, the Guard said in a statement.
The Iranian military did not immediately publish images of the drone.
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 that the US might have orchestrated them itself to provide a pretext for the use of force against the Islamic republic.
Shooting down the drone on Thursday was “a clear message” that Iran will defend its borders, the head of the Revolutionary Guard said.
Iran will “respond to all foreign aggression and our reaction is, and will be, categorical and absolute,” 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.
– ‘Maximum pressure’ –
Tensions have been running high between Iran and the United States ever since President Donald Trump abandoned a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement in May last year.
The subsequent reimposition of crippling unilateral sanctions has dealt a heavy blow to Iran’s already flagging economy.
Washington has also bolstered its military presence in the Middle East in a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran.
Its deployment to the Gulf of an aircraft carrier task force as well as B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile defence battery has sparked fears of fresh conflict in the region.
One of the two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman last week was damaged by a limpet mine, the US military said Wednesday.
Commander Sean Kido of US Naval Forces Central Command, or NAVCENT, said the mine used in the attack “is distinguishable and it is also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades”.
The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, loaded with highly flammable methanol, came under attack last Thursday as it passed through the Gulf of Oman along with the Norwegian-operated Front Altair.
– Fingerprints –
It was the second attack in a month on ships in the strategic shipping lane.
On May 12, two Saudi oil tankers and two other vessels were damaged in mysterious “sabotage attacks” in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates.
Kido told reporters in the UAE emirate of Fujairah that the US military had recovered “biometric information” of the assailants on the Kokuka Courageous including fingerprints.
This information “can be used to build a criminal case”, Kido said as the US Navy took journalists to the damaged ship currently anchored some 14 kilometres (nine miles) off Fujairah.
Defence Minister Amir Hatami flatly rejected allegations Iran was behind the twin attacks.
“Accusations levelled against Iran’s armed forces and the published film with regards to the incident (that) happened to the vessels… are unsubstantiated and we categorically reject these accusations,” the official news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.
Washington has released images and a grainy black-and-white video it says shows Iranians on a patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine attached to the Kokuka Courageous.
The US commander Kido said there was an “ongoing joint and combined investigation with our regional partners into the attacks” on the two tankers.
‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys
In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.
"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.
The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City.
"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."
Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors
A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.
The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.
"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.
The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.
‘Thrones’ seeks final Emmys glory — but ‘Fleabag’ springs surprise
"Fleabag" star Phoebe Waller-Bridge sprang a major surprise at the Emmys Sunday, besting eight-time acting winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a major upset, on a night when "Game of Thrones" takes its final tilt at television glory.
The dark British comedy -- which has grown into a phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic after being acquired by Amazon -- also scooped the awards for best comedy writing and directing at television's answer to the Oscars.
"It's just really wonderful to know and reassuring that a dirty, pervy, angry, messed-up woman can make it to the Emmys," said Waller-Bridge, referring to her character.