16:59 GMT +315 November 2019
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    A general view of Imam Khomeini Port seen in Persian Gulf 900 kms (540 miles) south of Tehran, Iran, in this photo taken on Sunday

    Iran Downs 'Foreign Drone' After Airspace Violation Over Southern Port in Persian Gulf

    © AP Photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian
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    Earlier, Tehran reportedly informed international maritime authorities that three of its oil tankers had been attacked by unknown forces in a matter of six months, calling the Red Sea route, where these attacks happened, "unsafe".

    A drone has been shot down above the Iranian port of Mahshahr in the country's south on the shores of the Persian Gulf, the ISNA news agency reported. It's unclear at the moment from the report whether the unmanned aerial aircraft (UAV) was a military or civil one. According to a report by the Tasnim News Agency, the port's air defence system Mersad was activated to shoot down the unidentified aircraft after it was detected in the port's airspace. 

    Ghulam Reza Shariati, Governor of Khuzestan Province in which the Mahshahr port is located, told the media outlet Young Journalists Club that the country's military personnel are currently working on retrieving the remains of the downed drone. He added that the UAV "definitely" belongs to a foreign state and promised that the results of the probe into the aircraft will be made public.

    Iranian Air Defence Commander Brigadier General Sabahi Fard separately confirmed that the country's defence systems took down a drone, which, as he clarified, violated the country's airspace. The commander added that the violator was shot down before it could reach any "critical locations".

    Attacks on Tankers in Middle East

    A report by The Wall Street Journal has suggested that Tehran recently notified the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that three of its oil tankers have suffered attacks over the course of six months. Iran previously reported only one of the tankers, mentioned in the WSJ article, Sabiti, as likely being attacked by missiles

    Two other tankers, mentioned in a purported letter to IMO, Happiness I and HELM, reportedly suffered technical issues in May and August respectively, but nothing about being attacked was mentioned. Following the confirmed attack on Sabiti, Tehran vowed to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the culprit behind it and soon clarified that it was likely organised by one or even several states.

    While purported attacks on Iranian tankers took place in the Red Sea near Saudi Arabia's shores, a total of six tankers, belonging to Japan, Norway, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, have been attacked in the Persian Gulf over the course of the last half a year. The first attack near the shores of the UAE, which left four tankers damaged, was later investigated by the country's authorities. The UAE determined that the attacks were organised by a state actor, without actually naming the culprit.

    In light of these attacks, the US, which baselessly blamed them on Iran, proposed local countries and European allies form a military maritime coalition to secure the Persian Gulf's trading routes. The initiative was criticised by Iran and largely ignored by those invited, but several countries like the UK, Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Australia agreed to participate.

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