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Iran forces 'shoot down US drone'

Iran's armed forces have shot down an unmanned US spy plane that violated its airspace along the country's eastern border, the official IRNA news agency is reporting.

An unidentified military official quoted in the report warned of a strong and crushing response to any violations of the country's airspace by American drone aircraft.

"An advanced RQ-170 unmanned American spy plane was shot down by Iran's armed forces. It suffered minor damage and is now in possession of Iran's armed forces," IRNA quoted the official as saying.

The US-led coalition in Afghanistan said in a statement the aircraft may be an American drone that its operators lost contact with last week while it was flying a mission over neighbouring western Afghanistan.

A US official said the it had "absolutely no indication" that the drone was shot down.

Iran is locked in a dispute with the US and its allies over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful, seeking to generate electricity and produce isotopes to treat medical patients.

The type of aircraft Iran says it shot down, an RQ-170 Sentinel, is made by Lockheed Martin and was reportedly used to keep watch on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan as the raid that killed him was taking place earlier this year.

The surveillance aircraft is equipped with stealth technology, but the US Air Force has not made public any specifics about the drone.

Iran said in January that two pilotless spy planes it had shot down over its airspace were operated by the United States and offered to put them on public display. In July, Iranian military officials showed Russian experts several US drones they said were shot down in recent years.

Also in July, Iranian lawmaker Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari said Iran's Revolutionary Guard shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane that was trying to gather information on an underground uranium enrichment site.

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