Unmanned U.S. Aircraft Lost in Iraq
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.S. Air Force unmanned reconnaissance aircraft failed to return from a mission over southern Iraq and apparently was shot down by Iraqi air defense forces, a U.S. official said Monday.
``All of our manned aircraft are accounted for,″ said Army Maj. Timothy Blair, a Pentagon spokesman. He would not confirm the loss, but a defense official said a Predator unmanned aircraft was missing and believed lost.
The first word came from Baghdad.
``Iraqi air defenses have shot an American reconnaissance plane coming from Kuwaiti territory,″ the official Iraqi News Agency quoted an unidentified military spokesman as saying.
The plane, according to the news agency, contained ``high-tech equipment″ and was shot down near the southern city of Basra, 340 miles south of Baghdad.
The Iraqi news agency did not further specify the type of plane or say anything about any pilots aboard. There were no pictures immediately on Iraqi television.
The United States has lost Predator reconnaissance planes to hostile fire before, mainly in the Balkans, but rarely if ever over Iraq.
Iraq has been stepping up its efforts to shoot down the U.S. and British aircraft that patrol ``no-fly″ zones over southern and northern Iraq. It has come closer in recent weeks, prompting occasional retaliatory U.S. and British attacks on air defense radars and communications sites.