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US accuses Iran of helping Huthi rebels shoot down drone over Yemen

A U.S. MQ-9 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Reaper taxis at the Mahe International Airport after completing its mission November 4, 2009. The temporary basing of MQ-9s in the Seychelles is a proof-of-concept demonstration to determine the feasibility of using unmanned aerial systems in support of maritime and border-related security initiatives in and around the Indian Ocean. The success of this joint venture depends on the effective collaboration of both the U.S and Seychelles governments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Major Eric Hilliard, U.S. Africa Command)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The U.S. military says Yemen’s Shi’ite Huthi rebels shot down a U.S. government-operated drone earlier this month with “assistance” from Iran.

“A U.S. MQ-9 was shot down over Yemen by what we assess to be a [Huthi] SA-6 surface to air missile on Jun 6,” Lieutenant-Colonel Earl Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said in a statement on June 16.

Brown added that the altitude at which the drone was shot down marked “an improvement over previous [Huthi] capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance.”

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition backing Yemen’s government in its four-year war with the Huthi rebels. The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and regional rival Tehran.

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Brown also said that on June 13, “a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile attempted to shoot down” a U.S. MQ-9 drone over the Gulf of Oman in an effort to disrupt surveillance of the “IRGC attack” on Kokuka Courageous — one of two oil tankers attacked in the area that day.

The United States and its allies blame the attacks on the two vessels on Iran, which denies any involvement.

The Pentagon has released a video claiming to show patrol boats from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) removing what appeared to be an unexploded mine from the side of the Kokuka Courageous