Iran says it briefly seizes unmanned U.S. drones in Red Sea


DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s navy seized but later released two U.S. surface drones in the Red Sea, accusing the unmanned vessels of jeopardizing maritime safety, Iranian state television reported on Friday, in the second such incident in days.

“The (Iranian navy) frigate Jamaran seized the two vessels on Thursday to prevent any possible accident after issuing warnings to the U.S. fleet. After international shipping lanes were secured, the two vessels were released in a safe area,” the TV said.

Footage appeared to show more than a dozen Iranian navy personnel pushing two drones into the sea from the deck of their vessel.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy said it foiled an attempt by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards naval forces to capture an unmanned surface vessel operated by the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Gulf. Iran said the drone was a danger to maritime traffic.

Iran has been building up its naval presence in the Red Sea, near the coast of Yemen where Tehran backs the Houthi movement, after sending vessels there more than a decade ago to protect Iranian oil tankers and merchant ships against piracy.

Iran has repeatedly warned the United States about its military activities in the Gulf, saying that the Guards’ naval forces have increased patrols to also secure the passage of Iranian ships and combat fuel smuggling.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)