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Iran says it downed unmanned U.S. spy drone

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TEHRAN — Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said the country’s army downed an unmanned U.S. spy drone along the country’s eastern border Sunday.

The wreckage of what Fars described as a Lockheed-Martin RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone was largely intact after it was downed, the news agency said.

“Iran’s army has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran,” Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam state television network quoted an unnamed source as saying. “The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the armed forces.”

Three hours after the incident , major state TV news was showing only stock pictures of the allegedly downed RQ-17O stealth drone; no footage of the actual downed drone was shown.

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan said in a statement the aircraft may be an American drone that its operators lost contact with last week while it was flying a mission over neighboring western Afghanistan.

According to an unnamed Iranian military official quoted by state TV, Iran’s cyber warfare unit managed to take over controls of the drone and bring it down. In recent years, Iran has invested in what it calls “asymmetric” warfare, alternative techniques to take on enemies who have greater military power, like the United States.

An unnamed military official also told the Fars news agency that Iran’s response “will not be limited to the country’s borders.”

The incident follows a week of heightened tensions between Iran and the west after young Iranian hard-liners stormed the British Embassy compound and a separate diplomatic residence here Tuesday. Britain pulled its diplomatic staff from the Islamic republic following the attack and ordered Iran’s diplomats to leave London. The Iranian delegation arrived back in Tehran on Saturday.

In July, Iran also claimed to have shot down a U.S. spy drone, which U.S. officials denied. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard later backed away from the claim, saying its air defenses had only hit a test target.

Staff writer Greg Jaffe contributed to this report.

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