Before attacking two tankers near the coast of Iran on Thursday, Iranians launched a surface-to-air missile at a U.S. drone flying in the Gulf of Oman.
A U.S. MQ-9 drone spotted Iranian boats nearing the tankers before the attacks occurred, and the Iranians shot a missile at the drone, but missed, a U.S. official told CNN in an exclusive on Friday.
Just In; A US drone tracked Iranian boats closing in on the 2
tankers prior to attack Thurs. Iran spotted the MQ-9 & launched a SAM missile but missed. Missile fell into sea Days earlier a Reaper shot down in Red Sea by Iranian backed Houthis. None of this been announced.
— Barbara Starr (@barbarastarrcnn) June 14, 2019
The official also said a U.S. Reaper drone flying over the Red Sea was struck and shot down by what is presumably an Iranian missile, just days earlier.
📷✈️ #الحديدة: صور من بقايا حطام طائرة #MQ9 الأمريكية التي تم إسقاطها ليل الأمس بواسطة الدفاعات الجوية فوق قرية زعفران بـ #الساحل_الغربي.#اليمن #Yemen #أعيادنا_جبهاتنا #العدوان_يخرق_اتفاق_السويد pic.twitter.com/3Z8EowyxlC
— المركز الإعلامي لأنصار الله (@AnsarAllahMC) June 7, 2019
President Trump and several U.S. officials have asserted that Iran is responsible for the attack on the tankers.
The United Kingdom also blamed Iran on Friday, saying it is “almost certain” that the Iranian military was responsible for the attack.
A video released by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) shows a small Iranian vessel alongside the damaged Japanese oil tanker Kokuka Courage, and individuals aboard the boat attempting to move an unexploded mine wedged in the boat’s hull.
It was the same type of mine used in attacks against four tankers in the same area – the Gulf of Oman – last month.
Trump said the mine has “Iran written all over it,” adding, “We don’t take [their involvement] lightly.”
“They’re a nation of terror and they’ve changed a lot since I’ve been President, I can tell you,” he said. “They’re in deep, deep trouble.”
Trump’s comments come after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to the press on Thursday and also blamed Iran for the attack.
“The international community condemns Iran’s assault on the freedom of navigation and the targeting of innocent civilians,” 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,” Pompeo added.