No evidence US intercepted drones, Iranian defence minister says

No evidence US intercepted drones, Iranian defence minister says
Iran's defence minister said the US should provide evidence to back claims it intercepted two Iranian drones, as Iran did when it shot down a US drone last month.
3 min read
24 July, 2019
Iranian Minister of Defense Amir Hatami denied US claims it shot down Iranian drones [Anadolu/Getty]
Iran has again denied that any of its drones were intercepted after the US military said it took aim at two of them last week.

US Central Command said Tuesday that one Iranian drone crashed into the sea after the USS Boxer took what Central Command called "defensive action" against it last Thursday. It said the Boxer also "engaged" a second Iranian drone at the same time, but could not confirm it was destroyed.

Iran's defence minister, Gen. Amir Hatami, told reporters Wednesday that "if someone claims he should provide evidence," adding that "none of our drones have been intercepted."

He says that when Iran shot down a US drone last month it shared images of the wreckage to verify it.

Tehran earlier denied the reports on Friday, dismissing the US assertion as "baseless and delusional".

"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.

On Thursday, Trump said the USS Boxer "took defensive action" against an Iranian aircraft as it was "threatening the safety" of the vessel and its crew.

The Pentagon said the ship "was in international waters" when a drone approached.

"The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

But Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said such an incident had never taken place, saying the Islamic republic had not lost any aircraft.

"I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own (drone) by mistake!" Abbas Araghchi tweeted Friday.

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.

Tanker tit-for-tat 

The confrontation comes after Tehran shot down an American surveillance drone in June 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.

The tanker troubles further intensified on July 4, when Gibraltar detained an Iranian vessel with the help of British Royal Marines.

US officials believed the tanker was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of European Union and US sanctions.

Iran furiously branded the seizure "piracy", and one week later, London said Iranian boats menaced a British tanker in the Gulf before they were driven off by a Royal Navy frigate.

That led to US calls for an international flotilla to escort hydrocarbon-laden vessels from Gulf oil fields through the Hormuz Strait.

The incidents have raised fears of a regional conflict involving the US and its allies in the Gulf region, through which nearly a third of the world's oil is transported.

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