Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said Thursday it had shot down a US “spy drone” over its territory after it violated Iranian airspace, according to Iranian state television.
“The US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone was brought down by its Air Force” in the country’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan, the Revolutionary Guard added, according to the English-language Press TV.
State television did not provide pictures of the drone.
Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, declined to comment when asked if an American drone was shot down.
However, he told The Associated Press: “There was no drone over Iranian territory.”
The reported incident comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US since last year, when President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.
Tensions have flared in recent days after two oil tankers came under attack near Strait of Hormuz – a major oil shipping route.
The US and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) -have accused Iran of being behind the series of operations in the Gulf.
Tehran has denied involvement and instead suggested Washington could be the author of the attacks, using the operation to justify force against Iran.
On Wednesday, the US Navy said that recovered limpet mine fragments from one of two tanker ships that are believed to have been attacked bore a “striking resemblance” to mines seen during Iranian military parades.
US Navy personnel showed reporters pieces of debris and a magnet the Navy said was used to attach an unexploded mine to the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous oil tanker, which was attacked on June 13, along with the Norwegian-owned Front Altair tanker.
Iran has repeatedly denied any involvement in the June 13 suspected attacks, as well as in a similar attack on May 12 off the coast of the UAE.
US envoy heads to the Middle East
Meanwhile, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook heading to the Middle East for meetings in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain to discuss “Iran’s regional aggression,” the State Department said.
“He will also share additional US intelligence on the range of active threats Iran currently poses to the region,” the department said in a statement.
Earlier, Hook told a House panel new details about the information underlying US claims that Iran conducted the attacks on the two tankers.
Iran said it may soon begin to diverge from the 2015 nuclear agreement, by stockpiling more uranium than the deal allows and enriching fuel up to 20 percent putting the nation closer to obtaining weapons-grade material.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met on Tuesday with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini to seek European support for US economic sanctions against Iran. Europe has called for preserving the 2015 nuclear deal.
On Monday, Trump ordered another 1,000 US troops to the Middle East, which will include a Patriot missile battalion, manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft and “other deterrence capabilities”, the Pentagon said.
In an interview with Time magazine published on Tuesday, Trump discounted the suspected tanker attacks as “very minor” but said he would be willing to go to war to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Pompeo later appeared to walk back those comments, however, saying that Trump does not want war with Iran, but would continue to apply maximum pressure on the country.