Iranian Leader thanks IRGC for downing US spy plane, seizure of British tanker

FNA – Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei praised the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) for downing an intruder US spy drone and a violator British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.

“Before I went to visit the Persian Gulf islands, I met the Supreme Leader and asked for his recommendations about the trip,” Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative in the IRGC Abdollah Haj Sadeqi said in Tehran on Sunday.

“He (Ayatollah Khamenei) told me to relay his greetings (to the IRGC forces) and thank them and tell them that they have done a great job,” he added.

Iran’s air defense units intercepted an intruder US Navy spy drone, MQ4-C Triton, over Iran’s territorial waters on June 20.

The IRGC shot down a US Navy’s Northrop Grumman MQ4-C Triton drone that had entered Iranian airspace in the Gulf of Oman to gather intelligence on June 20, using indigenous Sevvom Khordad surface-to-air missile system.

The United States had confirmed that one of its reconnaissance planes was shot down by Iranian air defenses, but denied that it intruded into Tehran’s airspace at the time.

Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that his forces could have also shot down a US P8 aircraft with 35 on board which was violating Iran’s airspace, but decided to shoot down the drone to only send a message to Washington.

“We intended to send a message to American terrorists in the region,” Brigadier General Hajizadeh said on June 21, adding that his forces had also traced a military P8 aircraft violating the airspace of Iran.

“Along with the American drone was an American P8 aircraft with 35 on board, and it was also violating our airspace and we could have downed it too,” he said, adding, “But we did not do (shoot down) it, because our aim was to warn the terrorist forces of the US.”

Also, last month, the IRGC Navy impounded Stena Impero when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia “for failing to respect international maritime rules”.

“UK tanker ship, Stena Impero, has been detained by the vessels unit of the IRGC Navy’s First Naval Zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office of Hormuzgan province for disregarding international maritime rules and regulations as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz this afternoon,” the statement by the IRGCN public relations said.

The statement added that the ship had been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormuzgan province and its control had been transferred to the Ports and Maritime Organization for further legal procedures and investigations.

A statement by Stena Impero shipping firm had announced there were 23 crew onboard the UK ship, stating that there had been no report on any harm or injury to the crew members since the vessel came under detention by the Iranian forces.

Director-General of the Ports and Maritime Organization’s office in Hurmuzgan province stated that he filed a request for the seizure of the British tanker by the IRGCN after reports on its risky moves that made the vessel prone to accident.