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Iran rejects Trump report that US Navy downed its drone

DUBAI:  Iran on Friday denied President Donald Trump’s assertion that the U.S. Navy has destroyed one of its drones, saying all of its unmanned planes were accounted for, amid growing international concern that both sides could blunder into a war in the Gulf.

In the latest episode to test nerves around the strategic waterway, Trump said on Thursday the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards (914 metres) of the U.S. warship Boxer in a “provocative and hostile action” and had ignored several calls to stand down.

Iran dismissed the report.

“All drones belonging to Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz … returned safely to their bases after their mission of identification and control,” Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior armed forces spokesman, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

“And there is no report of any operational response by USS Boxer.”

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the drone on Thursday was brought down through electronic jamming.

The United States has blamed Iran for a series of attacks since mid-May on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil artery. Tehran rejects the allegations.

Iran in June shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile, saying the drone was in its airspace. Washington says it was in international skies.

The increased use of drones by Iran and its allies for surveillance and attacks across the Middle East is raising alarms in Washington.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said in a statement they would release images to disprove Trump’s contention that the U.S. Navy had destroyed a drone.

“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,” the Guards said.

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