It has been the second time in three months that the US has lost an unnamed aerial vehicle over Yemen. An American military drone was shot down on Tuesday 20th August, in Yemen, southeast of the capital, Sana. Iranian-backed Houthi forces claimed credit for the downing of the unmanned drone, an MQ-9 Reaper. In a statement on Wednesday, the United States Central Command said it was investigating the incident, which it said occurred in “authorized airspace over Yemen.

Drone shot down over northern Yemen

This is not the first time an American drone has been shot down in Yemen. In June, the U.S. military said that Houthi rebels had shot down a U.S. government-operated drone with assistance from Iran.U.S. forces have occasionally launched drone and airstrikes against Yemen’s al Qaeda branch, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The group has taken advantage of a four-year-old war between the Houthi movement and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s Saudi-backed government to try to strengthen its position in the impoverished country. One of the officials said that it appeared that the armed military drone, made by California-based General Atomics, had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile operated by the Iran-aligned Houthi group.

US military drone
The US Global Hawk drone which Iran shot down in June 2019.

Drone strike called off

“The rocket which hit it was developed locally and will be revealed soon at a press conference,” Saria said on Twitter. “Our skies are no longer open to violations as they once were and the coming days will see great surprises” he added. The drone shoot-down comes as tensions between Iran and the United States have risen since Trump’s administration last year quit an international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and began to ratchet up sanctions. Iranian officials denounced the new penalties as “economic warfare.”

In June, Iran shot down a U.S. Global Hawk drone, far larger than the MQ-9 drone, and almost led to retaliatory U.S. strikes. Trump later said he had called off the strikes because it could have killed 150 people.