World

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard denies drone capture

Says aircraft posed as enemy during a drill

In this image from a video, Amir Ali Hajizadeh (right), the Revolutionary Guard Corps aerospace force commander, was briefed by a military officer on an aircraft.
Al-Alam TV via Reuters
In this image from a video, Amir Ali Hajizadeh (right), the Revolutionary Guard Corps aerospace force commander, was briefed by a military officer on an aircraft.

TEHRAN — Iran’s Revolutionary Guard denied Sunday that it captured a foreign unmanned aircraft during a military exercise in southern Iran.

A spokesman for the Guard, Yasin Hasanali, said the drone was being used during the drill as a supposed enemy aircraft.

Iranian media on Saturday quoted a spokesman for the Guard as saying that its electronic warfare unit had taken control of a foreign drone’s navigation system and forced it to land during the military exercise.

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Iran has said it captured several US drones, including an advanced RQ-170 Sentinel CIA spy drone in December 2011 and at least three Scan­Eagle aircraft.

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The Guard’s military exercise, code-named Great Prophet-8, is scheduled to end Monday.

General Hamid Sarkheili, a spokesman for the military ­exercise, said Saturday that the Guard unit spotted foreign drones it believed were trying to enter Iranian airspace.

Sarkheili said Guardsmen took control of one drone’s ­navigation system and brought it down near the city of Sirjan where the military drills began.

‘‘While probing signals in the area, we spotted foreign and enemy drones which ­attempted to enter the area of the war game,’’ the official ­IRNA news agency quoted the general as saying. ‘‘We were able to get one enemy drone to land.’’

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Sarkheili did not say whether the drone was American. In Washington, a CIA spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

State TV over the weekend showed tanks and artillery attacking hypothetical enemy positions. Sarkheili said various systems, including unmanned planes that operate like suicide bombers, were tested.

‘‘Reconnaissance as well as suicide drones, which are capable of attacking the hypothetical enemies, were deployed and their operational capabilities were studied,’’ the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Also Sunday, an Iranian semiofficial news agency reported that a commander of the Revolutionary Guards was killed in the country’s Kurdish northwest.

The report by Fars quoted a statement by the Guard as saying General Hamid Tabatabaei was ‘‘martyred’’ during an engineering assignment.

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It was the third reported killing of a ranking officer in the area, home to mostly people of the Kurdish ethnic group. Members of the Guard have in the past fought Kurdish opposition groups in the area.

In recent years the Guard have attacked several bases of the armed Kurdish group known as the PEJAK, which has been occasionally involved in armed clashes with Iranian forces.