Iran's Revolutionary Guard has captured a US drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, state TV reported today.
The report quoted the Guard's navy chief, General Ali Fadavi, as saying that the "intruding" drone was captured, but gave no further details on the location or when the incident occurred.
However a US Navy spokesman said no American drones were missing in the Middle East. He also cast doubt on Iranian claims that the US ScanEagle drone entered Iranian airspace, saying US operations in the Persian Gulf are "confined to internationally recognised water and airspace."
He said that US ScanEagles have been lost into the sea in the past, but none have gone down recently.
Other nations in the Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates, have ScanEagle drones in service.
Gen Fadavi said the unmanned Scan Eagle aircraft was now in Iran's possession.
"The US drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance flight and gathering data over the Persian Gulf in the past few days, was captured by the Guard's navy air defence unit as soon as it entered Iranian airspace," he said. "Such drones usually take off from large warships."
If true, the seizure of the drone would be the third reported incident involving Iran and US drones in the past two years.
Last month, Iran claimed that a US drone had violated its airspace. The Pentagon said the unmanned aircraft came under fire - at least twice but was not hit - and that the Predator was over international waters.
The November 1 shooting in the Gulf was unprecedented, and further escalated tensions between the United States and Iran, which is under international sanctions over its suspect nuclear programme. Tehran denies it is pursuing a nuclear weapon and insists its programme is for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation and cancer treatment.
In 2011, Iran claimed it brought down a CIA spy drone after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which is equipped with stealth technology, was captured almost intact. Tehran later said it recovered data from the top-secret drone.
In the case of the Sentinel, after initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed the plane was monitoring Iran's military and nuclear facilities.
Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.