US warplanes shot down an Iranian drone inside Iraqi airspace north of Baghdad last month, an American military spokesman has said.
“This was not an accident on the part of the Iranians,” the unnamed spokesman said in a statement on Monday, without elaborating. “The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was in Iraqi airspace for nearly one hour and 10 minutes and well inside Iraqi territory before it was engaged.” The drone was about 100 kms from Baghdad, he said.
“Coalition multi-role jet fighters shot down an Iranian UAV February 25,” the statement said. “The pilots were directed to shoot the UAV down after determining there would be no possibility of collateral damage. The UAV was believed to be an Iranian ‘Ababil 3´ model UAV.”
Iraqi defence ministry spokesman Brigadier General Mohamad al-Askari told AFP the drone had been shot down close to the main US air base in Iraq at Balad, some 70 kms north of the capital. “The drone travelled about 130 kms through Iraqi airspace,” he said.
The report came at a time when Washington is tentatively seeking to unfreeze relations with Tehran, which has made no comment on any drone incident in Iraqi airspace.