WASHINGTON: Tensions in the Gulf region mounted Thursday as US President Donald Trump said an American naval vessel destroyed an Iranian drone that threatened the ship as it was entering the Strait of Hormuz.
It was the first US military engagement with Iran following a series of increasingly serious incidents.
Trump announced that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, “took defensive action” against the Iranian drone as it was “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew.”
The drone was “immediately destroyed,” Trump said, after it approached within 1,000 yards (914 meters) of the Boxer, Trump said.
“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran, against vessels operating in international waters,” he said.
“The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.”
Tehran’s top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters he had “no information about losing a drone today,” as he arrived at the United Nations headquarters for a meeting with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The apparent confrontation came as Iran defended its detention Sunday of a “foreign tanker” believed to be the Panamanian-flagged vessel Riah and its 12 crew for allegedly smuggling fuel.
First US military action
The drone shootdown comes after a series of low-level attacks in the region blamed on Tehran’s forces, including placing limpet mines on several tankers and actions by what Washington calls Iranian proxies in Syria and Yemen.