CNN, Fox News, and Voice of America were among the outlets reporting that the drone was shot down, citing U.S. officials.
The drone was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, an official told CNN. It wasn’t clear if the drone was being run by the military or intelligence officials when it was shot down.
An official told Voice of America that it was an American MQ-9 drone.
“It’s the Houthis but its enabled by Iran,” the official said.
That assessment was shared by Babak Taghvaee, a historian and defense analyst. The rebels “claim that they used a new missile which is locally manufactured. But for sure, it means that is supplied by Iran’s Islamic Regime!” he wrote on Twitter.
— Carla Babb (@CarlaBabbVOA) August 21, 2019
#BREAKING: #IRGC backed #Houthi rebels claim that they have managed to shoot-down a #USAF MQ-9 Reaper armed drone at #Thamar, #Yemen. They claim that they used a new missile which is locally manufactured. But for sure, it means that is supplied by #Iran‘s Islamic Regime! pic.twitter.com/iC2s6rXA8L
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) August 20, 2019
Prior to American officials saying the drone was shot down, a Houthi military spokesman said that air defenses brought down a U.S. drone. Overnight, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saria said that the drone had been shot down.
“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 was shot down in the Dhamar governate, southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.
This is not the first time a U.S. 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, and that same month Iran downed a drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
That downed drone led to a U.S. military strike that was called off by President Donald Trump at the last minute because of concerns about the death toll.
Trump on June 25 said that the next attack by Iran on any U.S. assets would be met with force.
“Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
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 4-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.
A U.S. official said that while losing a drone was expensive, it was not unprecedented and it was unlikely to lead to any major response by the United States.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday Tehran may act “unpredictably” in response to the United States’ “unpredictable” policies under Trump as the United States continues to ratchet up sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday that America is “tracking very closely” the provisions in the nuclear deal with Iran that the Trump administration exited but European countries still want to keep, “namely the UN arms embargo and the travel restrictions on Qasem Soleimani,” referring to an Iranian intelligence and military official.
“The whole world is able to track them, too. We now have a countdown clock on the State Department’s Iran webpage. Time is drawing short to continue this activity of restricting Iran’s capacity to foment its terror regime,” he said. “The international community will have plenty of time to see how long it has until Iran is unshackled to create new turmoil, and figure out what it must do to prevent this from happening.”
Reuters contributed to this report.