A senior U.S. official told Fox News that an MQ9 Reaper drone was fired on by the Iranians on Thursday shortly after it arrived at the scene where the MV Altair tanker sent out a distress signal amid the attacks the U.S. says were perpetrated by Iran.
The official said the first distress call from the MV Altair tanker, a Marshall Islands-flagged but Norwegian-owned crude oil tanker, went out at 6:12am local time. The unmanned MQ9 Reaper drone arrived 8 minutes later.
Then at 6:45am local time, a missile was fired at the drone, but missed. The U.S. military said that it was a modified SA-7 fired from Iran’s mainland. It was fired on after the drone arrived on station to assist the Norwegian tanker.
The news comes amid tensions in the region following the attack on oil tankers that put the U.S. and Iran on the brink of a direct conflict.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for the “blatant assault” on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier Thursday.
In a news conference, Pompeo said: “This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
He charged that Iran was working to disrupt the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and this is a deliberate part of a campaign to escalate tension, adding that the U.S. would defend its forces and interests in the region, although he did not elaborate.
President Trump, meanwhile, told “Fox and Friends” Friday morning that the attack had “Iran written all over it.’
“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” he said, before pointing to the video showing the Iranians removing the unexploded mine. “They’re a nation of terror and they’ve changed a lot since I’ve been president, I can tell you,” he added.
U.S. officials released a video Friday supposedly showing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the vessels.
The black-and-white footage, as well as still photos released by the U.S. military’s Central Command on Friday, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, before a Revolutionary Guard patrol boat pulled alongside the ship and removed the mine, Central Command spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said.
Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.