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Iran claims that it captured a U.S. drone

TEHRAN, Iran

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps naval forces have captured a U.S. drone that it said entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, state television reported Tuesday. The claim was quickly denied by the U.S. Navy and later by the Obama administration.

Iranian state media said the aircraft was a ScanEagle built by Boeing, which, according to the company's website, can be launched and operated from ships.

A spokesman for the U.S. Navy in Bahrain denied the Iranian claim, saying that no U.S. drones were missing.

"The U.S. Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region," a spokesman for the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain told Reuters. "Our operations in the gulf are confined to internationally recognized water and airspace. We have no record that we have lost any ScanEagles recently."

However, the drone could have been one used by the CIA, or even the National Security Agency, which both have eyes on Iran. Several kingdoms of the Persian Gulf also have ScanEagle drones.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "We have no evidence that the Iranian claims are true."

If the seizure is confirmed, it would indicate a spike in tension between the United States and Iran in the skies over the gulf. On Nov. 8, Pentagon officials said Iranian warplanes had fired at a Predator drone flying over the gulf the previous week. It was believed to be the first incident in which Iranian warplanes had fired on an U.S. drone, they said.

State television showed images of what seemed to be an intact ScanEagle being inspected by Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' naval forces. The drone was displayed in front of a large map of the Persian Gulf with text in English and Persian saying, "We shall trample on the U.S."

Without mentioning the drone claim, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday warned Iran's adversaries against aggression.

"Our enemies should open their eyes," he said in a speech. "They may be able to take a few steps forward but, in the end, we will make them retreat behind their own border."

Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, told state television Tuesday that the country planned to use the capture of the drone as evidence against the United States in international organizations.

"We had announced to the Americans that according to international conventions, we would not allow them to invade our territories, but unfortunately they did not comply," Salehi said. "We had objected to the Americans before, but they claimed they were not present in our territories. We will use this drone as evidence to pursue a legal case against American invasion in international forums."

Fadavi said his forces had "hunted down" the ScanEagle over the gulf after it violated Iranian airspace and had forced it to land electronically, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported. A state television commentator said the drone was on a spy mission.

A September report by the Government Accountability Office on unmanned aircraft systems warned that some drones were sensitive to jamming and spoofing. In a spoofing operation, an unencrypted GPS signal can be taken over by enemy forces, the report warns, effectively hijacking the drone.

After the Nov. 1 attack on the Predator, U.S. officials maintained that the drone had been over international waters, while Iranian commanders insisted that it had violated their airspace. Sea and air borders in the region are strongly contested.

Last month, Iran complained to the United Nations over what it said had been at least eight violations of its airspace by U.S. planes.

Iran's latest claim comes 12 months after it said it had brought down an RQ-170 Sentinel operated by the CIA. At the time, Iranian state television showed images of the bat-winged drone - apparently fully intact - that Iran had nicknamed "the beast of Kandahar," a reference to a drone base in Afghanistan.

Iran has maintained that it hacked into the RQ-170's controls and forced it to land. But U.S. officials said it had crashed.

Posted to: Military

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