- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - An Iranian unmanned aircraft shot down by the U.S. military over Iraq was operating illegally and unsafely, but its presence should not come as a shock, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.

The drone shot down last month was the first of its kind discovered over Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. He would not speculate on what the drone was looking at.

“I, frankly, don’t know why it should come as a surprise to anybody. The Iranians have tried multiple methods of destabilizing the government in Iraq, of providing extremist groups with the means to attack our forces and Iraqi security forces,” Morrell said during a Pentagon news conference.

U.S. jets shot down the Iranian surveillance aircraft about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. That puts the drone well inside Iraq’s borders.

“This was by no means a mistake,” Morrell said.

Morrell said the U.S. is inspecting the wreckage.

“We couldn’t allow it to remain there, in part, because it was operating in an area that a high air traffic zone and would have presented a danger to coalition aircraft, not to mention the fact it was in violation of sovereign Iraqi air space,” he said.

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