US forces shot down Iranian drone-Iraq official

U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone aircraft that ventured inside Iraq several weeks ago, a senior Iraqi military official said on Monday.

“An unmanned Iranian plane crossed the border and it was discovered by multi-national forces’ radar. They intercepted it and brought it down … an American plane brought it down,” Major-General Abdul Aziz Mohammed Jassim, head of military operations at the Iraqi Defence Ministry, told Reuters.

“According to the report received by multinational forces, this drone entered Iraq mistakenly at a point 100 km (60 miles) from Baghdad. It crossed 10 km (6 miles) into Iraq. It’s most likely that its entrance (into Iraqi territory) was a mistake,” he said.

Jassim said he could not recall the precise date of the incident, but said it likely took place in late February.

The U.S. military in Iraq has declined to comment on reports of such an incident. It has accused Iran of arming militants and meddling in neighbouring Iraq, where tens of thousands of people have died in sectarian and insurgent violence since the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003.

But ties between the government of Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iran, a fellow majority Shi’ite nation with historic ties to Iraq, are mostly friendly.

The United States now has about 140,000 troops in Iraq, but combat operations will cease by the end of August 2010 under U.S. President Barack Obama’s withdrawal plan, and all U.S. forces are due to leave the country by the end of 2011.

(Reporting by Waleed Ibrahim; writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Dominic Evans)

http://www.reuters.com/article/middleeastCrisis/idUSLG477109