New York Times: An Iranian news agency said Tuesday that a United States warplane had been forced to land in Iran, but the United States military denied the claim, and Tehran quickly withdrew it.
The New York Times
By ALAN COWELL
Published: October 7, 2008
PARIS — An Iranian news agency said Tuesday that a United States warplane had been forced to land in Iran, but the United States military denied the claim, and Tehran quickly withdrew it.
Within moments of the first report on the semi-official Fars news agency, an Arabic-language Iranian state television channel, Al Alam, said on its Web site that the plane “was not a military plane and did not belong to the United States.”
The television station’s Web site said the plane was forced down on Sunday and allowed to fly on to Afghanistan on Monday. It did not say where the incident took place.
The channel quoted an unidentified official saying “a few U.S. military soldiers were on the plane.” However, in a subsequent report, the television station quoted an unidentified military source as saying the plane was Hungarian and carried no United States military personnel. Hungary is listed on NATO’s Web site as having a small military contingent in Afghanistan, which shares a border with Iran. United States and NATO forces are fighting resurgent Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
The initial report on Fars said that an American Falcon jet had entered Iranian airspace from Turkey “despite repeated warnings” from Iran.
“The U.S. jet was flying at low altitude in a bid to remain unnoticed by Iranian radars, but it was made to touch down at an Iranian airport escorted by Air Force fighter jets,” the Fars report said.
It said the crew and passengers, identified as five members of the military and three civilians, were released “after daylong interrogations revealed that they had violated Iranian airspace unintentionally as they were en route to Afghanistan.”
The United States Air Force said no American aircraft had been forced downed. “All U.S. aircraft supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are accounted for,” the air force said in a statement.
Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.