Daily Telegraph: For a fleeting period on Tuesday afternoon, Tehran's official news agencies claimed that Iranian jet fighters had forced an American plane to land and officials were interrogating its military crew.
The Daily Telegraph
For a fleeting period on Tuesday afternoon, Tehran's official news agencies claimed that Iranian jet fighters had forced an American plane to land and officials were interrogating its military crew.
By David Blair, Diplomatic Editor
At a time of rising tension between the two powers, this potentially incendiary incident summoned memories of the hostage crisis of three decades ago, when Iranian Revolutionary Guards held 52 US diplomats captive for 444 days.
Yet it all turned out to be a mirage. The aircraft and all of its occupants were, it transpired, Hungarians. They had all been released and allowed to proceed. Their Falcon jet, usually employed to transport VIPs, had been en route from Turkey to Afghanistan when it apparently strayed into Iranian airspace.
The aircraft flew at "low altitude in a bid to remain unnoticed by Iranian radars," according to the Fars news agency in Tehran. But the air force responded and the Falcon was compelled to land inside Iran.
All eight people on board were then "interrogated" for a day. Once Iran's authorities had established that they had entered the country's airspace accidentally, they were released on Monday and allowed to continue their journey.
Hundreds of American military aircraft operate in Iran's immediate neighbourhood, notably in the skies above Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf. Last year, 15 British sailors and Marines were held captive for two weeks after Iran accused them of straying into its territorial waters.
But the Pentagon confirmed that none of its aircraft was missing.
The mysterious incident amounted to nothing more than the puzzling detention of lost Hungarians.