WASHINGTON: Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi denied on Friday having lost any drone recently and hinted that the US could have downed their own “by mistake” on his Twitter account.
“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!” Araghchi tweeted, after the United States claimed it downed an unmanned Iranian aircraft.
We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS by mistake!
— Seyed Abbas Araghchi (@araghchi) July 19, 2019
However, the US said it will destroy any Iranian drones that fly too closely to its ships and that it has “very clear evidence" that it shot down such a drone, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday.
“If they fly too close to our ships, they’ll continue to be shot down,” the official told reporters at a briefing.
Iran’s armed forces also denied that the US had downed one of their drones, saying all such aircraft had “safely returned” to their bases, Tasnim news agency reported.
“Despite (US President Donald) Trump’s baseless and delusional claims, all of (Iran’s) drones... have safely returned to their bases,” said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards also said on Friday they would release images to disprove US President Donald Trump’s assertion that the US Navy has destroyed an Iranian drone in the Gulf, Iranian news agencies reported.
“Soon, images captured by the Guards drones from the U.S. warship Boxer will be published to expose to world public opinion as lies and groundless the claim ... of shooting down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz,” the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement carried by news agencies.
Trump on Thursday said that a US warship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after it threatened the ship.
In remarks at the White House, Trump blamed Iran for a “provocative and hostile” action and said the US responded in self-defense.
He said the Navy’s USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, took defensive action after the Iranian aircraft closed to within 1,000 yards of the ship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
“The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce,” Trump said.
The Pentagon said the incident happened at 10 a.m. local time Thursday in international waters while the Boxer was transiting the waterway to enter the Arabian Gulf. The Boxer is among several US Navy ships in the area, including the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that has been operating in the nearby North Arabian Sea for weeks.
“A fixed-wing unmanned aerial system approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a written statement. “The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”