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July 20, 2019

Tehran dismisses US claim of destroying Iranian drone


July 20, 2019

TEHRAN: Tehran on Friday denied the United States had downed one of its drones, saying all Iranian aircraft were accounted for and jesting Washington may have accidentally hit their own machine.

The latest incident in the strategic Strait of Hormuz comes amid soaring tensions between the two foes, with Washington already reeling from Iran shooting down one of its drones last month.

US President Donald Trump said an American naval vessel downed an Iranian drone on Thursday that threatened the ship as it was entering the Strait -- a claim vehemently denied by Tehran.

Iran’s armed forces dismissed Trump’s assertion as "baseless and delusional" while admitting one of their drones was flying near the US ship. "All of Iran’s drones... have safely returned to their bases," said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi. "There have been no reports of a confrontation with the American USS Boxer" naval vessel, he added, quoted by Tasnim news agency.

The Revolutionary Guards said they will "soon" publish photos taken by one of their drones of the USS Boxer. Images were transmitted to base "before and even after the time Americans claim" the drone was destroyed, according to a statement on the force’s Sepahnews website.

The Pentagon said the ship "was in international waters" when a drone approached at approximately 10:00 am local time (0530 GMT). Trump said on Thursday the USS Boxer "took defensive action" against an Iranian aircraft as it was "threatening the safety" of the vessel and its crew.

But Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi quipped that the United States may have actually downed one of its own aircraft. "I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own drone by mistake!" Abbas Araghchi tweeted on Friday.

The confrontation comes after Tehran in June shot down an American surveillance drone it said was flying in its airspace, a claim denied by the United States. Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute following the incident. Iran has in turn refuted US accusations that it was behind a series of recent tanker attacks off the United Arab Emirates coast and the Gulf of Oman.

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