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Iran claims to have captured US drone

This image taken from the Iranian state TV showed a purported ScanEagle drone.

AP

This image taken from the Iranian state TV showed a purported ScanEagle drone.

TEHRAN — Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps naval forces captured a US drone that it said entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, state television reported Tuesday. The claim was quickly denied by the US Navy.

Iranian state media said the aircraft was a ScanEagle built by Boeing, which, according to its website, can be launched and operated from ships.

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A spokesman for the US ­Navy in Bahrain denied the Iranian claim, saying that no US drones were missing.

‘‘The US Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region,’’ a spokesman for the US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain told Reuters. ‘‘Our operations in the gulf are confined to internationally recognized water and airspace. We have no record that we have lost any ScanEagles recently.’’

The drone could have been one used by the CIA or the National Security Agency, which both have eyes on Iran. Several kingdoms of the Persian Gulf also have ScanEagle drones.

If the seizure is confirmed, it would indicate a spike in tension between the United States and Iran. On Nov. 8, Pentagon officials said Iranian warplanes had fired at a Predator drone flying over the gulf. It was believed to be the first incident in which Iranian warplanes had fired on an US drone, they said.

State television showed images of what seemed to be an intact ScanEagle being inspected by Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ naval forces. The drone was displayed in front of a large map of the Persian Gulf with a text in English and Persian saying, ‘‘We shall trample on the US.’’

Without mentioning the drone claim, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Iran’s adversaries against aggression on Tuesday .

‘‘Our enemies should open their eyes,’’ he said in a speech. ‘‘They may be able to take a few steps forward, but in the end we will make them retreat behind their own border.’’

Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, told state television that the country plans to use the drone as evidence against the United States.

‘‘We had announced to the Americans that according to international conventions, we would not allow them to invade our territories, but unfortunately they did not comply,’’ Salehi said. ‘‘We had objected to the Americans before, but they claimed they were not present in our territories. We will use this drone as evidence to pursue a legal case against American invasion in international forums.’’

Fadavi said his forces had hunted down the ScanEagle over the gulf after it violated Iranian airspace and had forced it to land electronically, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported. A state television commentator said the drone was on a spy mission.

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