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US military drone shot down by missile in international airspace, US official says

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Brigadier General Hossein Salami, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

ATTA KENARE | AFP | Getty Images

A surface-to-air missile shot down a U.S. military drone in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. official told NBC News Thursday morning.

The U.S. official said a US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone was shot down in international airspace above the Strait of Hormuz. It was not in Iranian airspace. The official said they consider this to be an unprovoked attack.

The recently appointed chief of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami, told Iranian state TV that the downing was “a clear message” to Washington.

“The downing of the American drone was a clear message to America … our borders are Iran’s red line and we will react strongly against any aggression,” Salami said. “Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend Iran.”

The drone downing was first announced by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards on its website, Sepah News, around 7:00 a.m. local time. The Iranian outlet claimed the Revolutionary Guards had shot down a U.S. “spy drone” over the southern province of Hormozgan.

A U.S. Central Command spokesperson later responded to the charges saying that “No U.S. drone was operating in Iranian airspace today.”

Brent crude jumped on the news in early morning trading, up 2.81% at $63.56 a barrel at 7:50 a.m. London time. The Strait of Hormuz is a critical conduit for 30% of the world’s seaborne oil.

The incident follows a series of rapid escalations in the last week, including attacks on foreign merchant tankers in the Gulf of Oman that Washington has blamed on Tehran. Tensions have spiked between the U.S. and Iran in the year since the Donald Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sweeping sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

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