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Iran says maybe US accidentally downed its own drone as Gulf crisis simmers

Iran says maybe US accidentally downed its own drone as Gulf crisis simmersTehran has denied a US claim that an American warship in the Gulf shot down an Iranian aerial drone, suggesting that perhaps US forces brought down one of their own aircraft instead.US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the USS Boxer shot down what he described as an Iranian drone near the Strait of Hormuz after repeated warnings that it was approaching too close to the US Navy amphibious assault ship. But Iranian officials Friday derided the claim that the US had brought down one of its drones as “delusional,” and insisted that all of its “reconnaissance” drones had safely returned to base."Contrary to the delusional claim made by the president of the American regime, all UAVs belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf region and the Strait of Hormuz, including the one mentioned by the US president, have safely returned to their bases,” Brig-Gen Abolfazl Shekarchi was quoted as saying by state media. “There have been no reports of any confrontation with the USS Boxer.” Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s quick-witted deputy foreign minister, quipped on Twitter: “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own [UAV] by mistake!”The incident and ensuing confusion is the latest flare-up between Iran and the United States in a period of marked escalation following Washington’s move last year to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and begin punishing international companies for doing business with Tehran.Iran has responded by challenging the US and its allies. It downed an expensive US drone near or in its territory last month and is allegedly behind a number of attempts to sabotage or harass oil tankers moving in and out of the Gulf and the narrow Strait of Hormuz that connects it to the seas. “These attacks serve Iran’s purpose by offering Tehran the benefit of ambiguity, and they have not resulted in any loss of life to date — thereby increasing the potential to further threaten Gulf shipping without necessarily provoking a major U.S. military response,” the Soufan Center, a consultancy, wrote in a note on Friday. Details of the latest confrontation remain murky. The US has yet to release surveillance video or other footage showing its targeting of the drone. Iran may be denying its drone was shot to down to avoid having to respond and further escalate, but has said it will soon release footage showing the “ridiculousness of the operation the Americans claim".Mr Trump, reading from what was apparently a carefully worded prepared statement, said on Thursday that the Iranian drone “ignored multiple calls to stand down,” describing the incident as “the latest of many provocative and hostile actions against vessels operating in international waters.”But Brig Gen Shekarji described the US accusations, which were echoed by the Pentagon as well as the White House, as “aimed at provocation and destabilisation of the Persian Gulf region and the strategic Strait of Hormuz.”The incident and the ones preceding it have spooked the shipping industry. An industry source told The Independent that insurance costs for shippers moving in and out of the Persian Gulf had tripled and quadrupled over the last few weeks as tensions between Iran and the US have spiked, an increase in expenses which will likely be passed on to consumers across the world. "Until the situation is stabilised the increased threat levels may result in delays, an increase in shipping costs, and included in that is higher insurance premiums, and potential higher energy prices," said the source. "All of that will be absorbed by consumers."At a briefing on Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov placed blame on Washington and its campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran for the rising tensions and occasional flare-ups. “The concentration of forces and equipment in the area of the Persian Gulf, belonging to different countries, is so high that any incidents are possible,” he said, according to the Tass news agency. “We regret that the US side, despite all calls … still persistently continues its policy of increasing tension and putting maximum pressure on Tehran. This policy is erroneous and is fraught with further complications and upheavals.”



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Iran dismisses Trump report that U.S. Navy downed 'provocative' drone

Iran dismisses Trump report that U.S. Navy downed 'provocative' droneIran on Friday denied President Donald Trump’s assertion that the U.S. Navy has destroyed one of its drones, saying all of its unmanned planes were accounted for, amid growing international concern that both sides could blunder into a war in the Gulf. In the latest episode to test nerves around the strategic waterway, Trump said on Thursday the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards (914 meters) of the U.S. warship Boxer in a “provocative and hostile action” and had ignored several calls to stand down. Iran dismissed the report.



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Trump Says Major Sanctions on Iran Monday After Drone Downed

Trump Says Major Sanctions on Iran Monday After Drone Downed(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump said the U.S. will impose major new sanctions on Iran Monday, days after he abruptly called off a plan for airstrikes against the Islamic Republic based on the concept of proportionality after Iran shot down a U.S. Navy drone.The sanctions move, announced on Twitter with no additional detail, came as Trump spent the day at the Camp David presidential retreat having meetings and phone calls. The president foreshadowed the sanctions action earlier, in remarks at the White House.Trump told reporters he intended to impose additional economic sanctions and that military action is “always on the table until we get this solved” and that if Iran’s leadership “behaves badly, it’s going to be a very bad day for them.”He also said that having the Strait of Hormuz open to shipping is less important to the U.S. because of its large domestic oil production, and benefits China, Japan, Indonesia and other countries much more.“We’ll see with Iran,” he said. “Everyone was saying I’m a warmonger and now they’re saying I’m a dove.” Instead, Trump offered, he is “a man with common sense.”‘Plane in Their Sights’“I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians” unless it’s absolutely necessary, said Trump, expressing a fondness for Iranian people he’s known in New York. “Anything’s a lot when they shoot down an unmanned drone,” in terms of casualties.Trump also said that Iran “had a plane in their sights, 38 people on the plane and they didn’t shoot it down. That was a very wise decision.”That appeared to confirm a comment Friday by an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general that a manned U.S. spy plane was flying near the drone on Thursday but that Iran chose not to target it. The U.S. military’s Central Command hadn’t previously commented on the possible manned plane.Trump praised General Joseph Dunford, who’s set to retire in October as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford was against a military strike at this point, said Trump, who called him “a terrific man and a terrific general.”‘The Only One’Regarding some of his more hawkish advisers, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump said that having people on both sides of the debate is important but “the only one that matters is me.”Echoing the types of comments he’s made about North Korea, Trump said he hoped he could “make Iran great again” over time. “Iran right now is an economic mess,” he said.Separately, Trump approved an offensive cyber strike Thursday night that disabled Iranian computer systems used for rocket and missile launches, the Washington Post reported citing people it didn’t identify.The cyber strikes against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were carried out by U.S. Cyber Command in coordination with U.S. Central Command, the newspaper said.Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday sent a series of tweets with maps designed to show that the drone downed by Iran had been flying over its territorial waters, not international waters as the U.S. has said.That “hand-drawn map” isn’t credible, said Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, redoubling the U.S. rhetorical hard line after Trump backed away from military action. “Iran’s leaders know the truth is a dangerous thing. It is important to correct the record,” he said Saturday in a statement.The U.S. “has shown beyond any doubt that Iran shot down a U.S. unmanned aircraft in international airspace,” Pompeo said. “This attack marks the second time Iran targeted an American unmanned aircraft in recent weeks.”Iran has stepped up its aggressive efforts in the Middle East and is pursuing nuclear weapons rather than peace, Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said in Jerusalem on the eve a summit on regional security with Russian and Israeli officials.“The signs show Iran is not seeking peace,” Bolton said on Sunday, addressing media alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It’s forbidden for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”(Updates with Bolton’s comments in final two paragraphs.)\–With assistance from Hailey Waller.To contact the reporters on this story: Ros Krasny in Washington at rkrasny1@bloomberg.net;Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Ian FisherFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Downed drone was some 34 km (21 miles) from Iran coast: US general

Downed drone was some 34 km (21 miles) from Iran coast: US generalA US spy drone was some 34 kilometers (21 miles) from the nearest point in Iran when it was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile Thursday, a US general said. "This dangerous and escalatory attack was irresponsible and occurred in the vicinity of established air corridors between Dubai, UAE, and Oman, possibly endangering innocent civilians," said Lieutenant General Joseph Guastella, who commands US air forces in the region. The Pentagon released a graphic pinpointing the position of the drone on a map of the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic passage through which much of the world's oil passes.



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Pakistan returns Indian pilot downed over Kashmir

Pakistan returns Indian pilot downed over KashmirA pilot shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani aircraft returned to India on Friday, after being freed in what Islamabad called a "peace gesture" following the biggest standoff between the two countries in years. But fresh violence raged in Kashmir, with seven people killed in the Indian-administered part of the tinder-box territory, suggesting that the crisis may not be over yet. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, shot down on Wednesday over Kashmir – divided between the nuclear-armed rivals since 1947 – crossed into India at the famed Wagah crossing point, sporting a black eye from his ordeal. Thousands of Indians, waving flags, singing and dancing with patriotic fervour, had gathered at the crossing point on Friday afternoon but the crowd dwindled after his release was delayed inexplicably by hours. In New Delhi the announcement of the experienced pilot's release was seen as a diplomatic victory, but India warned that its military remained on "heightened" alert. On Thursday and Friday both countries continued to fire barrages across the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border dividing Kashmir, leaving at least one person dead. Gun battles on the Indian side left two militants and four members of the Indian security services dead, while a civilian was killed in later protests, police told AFP. "Influence of terrorists and terrorism has been curtailed and it is going to be curtailed even more. This is a New India," Prime Minister Narendra Modi, facing a tough election due by May, said Friday. "This is an India that will return the damage done by terrorists with interest," he said. India's junior foreign minister and former army chief, Vijay Kumar Singh, tweeted that the "welcome" release of the pilot was "the first of many steps that Pakistan must take to reinforce their commitment to peace". Pulwama suicide attack – Map Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule. Both claim it in full and have fought two wars over the Himalayan territory. India has half a million troops in the part it administers, with militants – backed by Islamabad, according to New Delhi – fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died since a revolt that broke out in 1989. Last year was the deadliest in a decade with almost 600 killed, monitors say. Matters escalated alarmingly after a massive suicide bombing killed 40 Indian troops on February 14, with the attack claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group. Twelve days later Indian warplanes launched a strike inside undisputed Pakistani territory, claiming to have hit a militant camp. An infuriated Islamabad denied casualties or damage, but a day later launched its own incursion across the LoC. That sparked the dogfight which ended in both countries claiming they had shot down each other's warplanes, and Abhinandan's capture. Prime Minister Imran Khan unexpectedly announced Thursday that he would be released in the first sign of a potential thaw. Khan alluded to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war and called for talks – even as he warned India should not take the announcement as a sign of weakness. Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan has become a national hero in India, with his parents receiving a standing ovation as they boarded a flight to welcome their son. Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi meanwhile said he was boycotting a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Abu Dhabi, as India had been invited. The tensions prompted Pakistan to close down its airspace, disrupting major routes between Europe and South Asia and grounding thousands of travellers worldwide. Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said Friday that flights could land and depart from its main airports from 1300 GMT, and that others would be opened "gradually". The parents of handlebar-moustached Abhinandan were given a standing ovation by fellow passengers as they boarded a flight to Amritsar near Wagah to welcome their son. He has become a national hero after purported footage that went viral showed him being beaten by locals after being shot down before Pakistani soldiers intervened, with social media abuzz with GivebackAbhinandan and Abhinandanmyhero hashtags. His subsequent polite refusal to proffer more details than necessary – "I am sorry major, I am not supposed to tell you this" – won him particular sympathy in India. His father, a retired air force officer, told the Times of India newspaper, "Just look at the way he talked so bravely… a true soldier… we are proud of him."



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India says 'happy' Pakistan is releasing downed pilot

India says 'happy' Pakistan is releasing downed pilotThe Indian government was “happy” that Pakistan had decided to return its captured air force pilot and it looked forward to his return, defense officials told reporters on Thursday. Wing Commander Abhinandan, who was captured by Pakistan’s army on Wednesday, will return to India on Friday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan told the country’s parliament. Asked about the damage caused when India warplanes struck a suspected militant camp in Pakistan, the officials said it was premature to provide details about casualties.



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Pakistan will free downed pilot to ease India stand off, Imran Khan pledges

Pakistan will free downed pilot to ease India stand off, Imran Khan pledgesPakistan will release a captured Indian pilot on Friday, Pakistan's prime minister told a joint session of parliament Thursday, in an overture towards New Delhi after soaring tensions fuelled fears of conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals. "As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow," Imran Khan said, a day after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down in a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbours over the disputed region of Kashmir. The adversaries on Wednesday night and Thursday morning continued to trade fire over their disputed Kashmir frontier while Delhi demanded the return of its airman. In contrast to world leaders, who continued to call for the nuclear armed neighbours to show restraint, members of India's ruling party have called for more military action against Pakistan. The US said the risks from either of the adversaries taking more military action were “unacceptably high”. Delhi demanded the “immediate and safe return” of Wg Cdr Varthaman who was captured after his aircraft was lost during a dogfight with Pakistani jets on Wednesday. India called for the immediate and safe return of Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman Indian anger over the suicide bombing of a security convoy that killed at least 40 paramilitary police in Kashmir earlier this month has prompted the most severe showdown between the neighbours in nearly two decades. India blames the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group for the attack this week launched air strikes inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan responded with its own strikes and the said it had shot down two Indian jets, capturing Wg Cdr Abhinandan. Pakistani police say troops deployed in the disputed region of Kashmir continued trading fire with India overnight, forcing villagers living near the contested frontier to flee to safety. Police official Mohammad Tahir says cross-border fire continued into Thursday but there were no casualties. Pulwama suicide attack – Map Meanwhile Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, told a rally of supporters that his country's enemies were conspiring to create instability through terror attacks He didn't mention arch rival Pakistan but said a united India would "fight, live, work and win." The prospect of runaway escalation in the stand off between the nuclear-armed countries has sent alarm around the world. "The potential risks associated with further military action by either side are unacceptably high for both countries, their neighbours, and the international community," said a White House National Security Council told Bloomberg. Donald Trump, the US president, was more upbeat, saying America had been involved in attempts to persuade the neighbours to climb down. “We have, I think, reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India,” he said while in Hanoi. “They’ve been going at it, and we’ve been involved in trying to have them stop.”



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Risk of India-Pakistan War May Hang on the Fate of Downed Pilot

Risk of India-Pakistan War May Hang on the Fate of Downed PilotIndia and Pakistan, which have fought three major wars since the bloody partition of 1947, regularly exchange artillery and small-weapons fire across a disputed border. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi must contest a general election within weeks, while his counterpart, Imran Khan, faces a military that is seeking to assert its dominance when Pakistan is in the eye of a financial and economic storm.



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Saved from Pakistani mob, downed Indian pilot becomes face of Kashmir crisis

Saved from Pakistani mob, downed Indian pilot becomes face of Kashmir crisisWith Pakistani villagers and soldiers filming his capture and captivity on Wednesday in clips that have since gone viral on social media, the pilot identified by Islamabad as Indian Wing Commander Abhi Nandan has fast emerged as the human face of the dangerous flare-up between the arch-foes. India has not confirmed the pilot’s identity. The pilot and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are at the heart of the crisis between two countries who have conducted air strikes on each other’s territory in the last two days.



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Airlines Reroute Flights as India, Pakistan Fighters Downed

Airlines Reroute Flights as India, Pakistan Fighters DownedA United Continental Holdings Inc. flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Delhi was re-routed to London and later canceled, while a Newark-Mumbai flight was shifted to Frankfurt. An Air Canada flight from Toronto to Delhi turned back Tuesday night over Ireland and was scrubbed when it arrived back in Canada. The South Asian nations are engaged in the most serious military confrontation in decades, after India said on Tuesday it killed hundreds of militants in a camp inside Pakistan.



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