US drone flew inside Iran: official

US drone flew inside Iran: official

TEHRAN - The Associated Press
US drone flew inside Iran: official

This file photo shows a rendition of a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 drone. AFP photo

The unmanned U.S. spy plane was deep inside Iran’s airspace, flying over an eastern town famous for Persian carpets and saffron when it was downed by Iranian armed forces, state radio reported yesterday. The report said the stealth-version of the RQ-170 drone was detected by Iranian forces over the eastern town of Kashmar, some 225 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan.

“The U.S. smart plane was captured by Iranian anti-aircraft units somewhere in the sky over Kashmar in the east of the country,” the radio said. It did not speculate as to why the drone flew over the town, which lies in an agricultural area known for the production of saffron and Persian carpets. The radio added that Iran will “soon” broadcast video footage of the downed drone.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information, have said the drone had spied on Iran for years from a U.S. air base in Afghanistan. According to these officials, the U.S. built up the air base in Shindad, Afghanistan, with an eye to keeping a long-term presence there to launch surveillance missions and even special operations missions into Iran if deemed necessary.

Iran’s hardline Kayhan daily yesterday quoted an unnamed military expert as saying Iranian forces did not shoot down the drone. The expert, though, said the Iranian military is capable of bringing it down in such a way that the “body of the plane and its parts remain intact.” Another conservative daily, Mellat, said Iran may transfer intelligence from the drone to regional allies Syria and Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.

U.S. military officials said they are concerned that Tehran may have an opportunity to acquire information about the classified surveillance drone program. But experts suggested that even if the Iranians have found parts of the unmanned spy plane, they can probably glean little from it. Because it likely fell from a high altitude, there may be very few large pieces to examine.