By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN, Iran (AA) – Iran's top military general said Tehran reserves the right to respond after an Iranian drone was downed by US forces in northern Iraq, calling it a "hostile action".
Army chief of staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, said in a statement on Friday that Iranian forces would "confront and take revenge" for the shooting down of its drone.
US Central Command on Thursday claimed that a US Air Force F-15 fighter plane shot down Iran's Mohajer-6 drone that was moving toward Erbil in northern Iraq.
Mohajer-6, developed by Iran, is used for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and target reconnaissance as well as to carry precision-guided munitions.
Since Saturday, Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) ground forces have launched a series of attacks with ballistic missiles and drones on what it claims are bases of Kurdish armed groups in the mountainous region of northern Iraq.
It has accused the groups, including Komala Party, of smuggling weapons into Iran to "create unrest" amid ongoing protests over the death of a young Iranian woman in police custody.
More than a dozen people have reportedly died in the attacks, which the IRGC has vowed to continue until the groups holed up in the border region lay down arms.
On Thursday, the US State Department confirmed that an American citizen was among those killed in the IRGC operation in northern Iraq, terming it a "violation of Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity".
The department spokesman did not disclose the slain person's name, nor did he spell out the US response.
Gen. Bagheri, reacting to reports of an Iranian drone being downed by a US fighter jet, said it proves Washington's "cooperation" with Kurdish armed groups. He stressed that Iranian armed forces would "appropriately respond" to the downing of its drone.
He also called on the Arab countries hosting American and Israeli bases to not allow their territories to be used for any "hostile action" against Iran, vowing a "definite response" against those bases.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have inflamed in recent weeks following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, which drew condemnation from top US officials.
Last week, the US National Security Council described Amini's death as an "appalling and egregious affront to human rights", prompting a sharp response from the top Iranian authorities.
The US government also announced sanctions against Iran's morality police, which had detained Amini before she fainted and was later pronounced dead at a hospital, for alleged violence against women.
In response to Iran's shelling of Kurdish groups in northern Iraq, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday said the Biden administration will continue to pursue "sanctions and other means" to disrupt Iran's regional activities.