According to Syria’s state news agency SANA, a U.S. military drone was shot down Tuesday by Syrian air defenses over the coastal province of Latakia.
“Syrian air defenses brought down a hostile U.S. surveillance plane in northern Latakia," SANA said in a bulletin, without specifying what weapons were used to hit the alleged U.S. drone.
Pictures of a crashed aircraft circulated on Twitter show wreckage that is consistent with a U.S. MQ-1 drone.
— kitadica (@KitadicaCool) March 17, 2015
Turkish military sources told CNN Turk the drone was unarmed and began its flight from a base in Adana in southeast Turkey. Along with several Arab allies, the United States has been conducting airstrikes over Syria since last September, targeting suspected militants of the Islamic State group and other Islamist extremists.
According to a Reuters report late on Tuesday evening, a U.S. official had acknowledged that Syrian air defenses had brought down a U.S. surveillance aircraft. However, a separate U.S. official speaking on conditions of anonymity said it was unclear whether the aircraft was shot down and said the incident was still being investigated.
If confirmed that an American drone was indeed shot down over Syria, it would be the first loss of a U.S. aircraft over Syria since airstrikes against the Islamic State group began nearly six months ago.
The U.S. does not acknowledge the basing of drones in the region, but an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that drones may be based at the Incirlik air base in Turkey, just 150 miles (250 km) from Latakia, well within the range of most U.S. drones.
The United States is in talks now with allies to pressure Bashar Assad’s government to put an end to the civil war in Syria. In an interview on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested attempts to broker a political solution to the conflict may have to involve representatives from the Syrian government. This month marks the fifth anniversary of the war, which has left more than 200,000 dead.
The United States uses drones for targeted killings and surveillance.
It would not be the first time an American drone has been taken down by a foreign government. In December 2011, Iran brought down a U.S. drone -- intact -- near the northeastern city of Kashmar. In that case, Iranian officials said they were able to hijack the unmanned vehicle.
Last December, Syria said it brought down an Israeli drone in the province of Quneitra near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (The Israeli military did not comment.) Four months before that, Israel shot down a drone over its border with Syria.