POLITICS

U.S. Says It Lost Contact With Unarmed Drone Over Syria

03/17/2015 06:13 pm ET | Updated Mar 18, 2015

BEIRUT/WASHINGTON, March 17 (Reuters) - The United States lost contact with an unarmed Predator drone over Syria on Tuesday, U.S. officials said, stopping short of confirming the plane was taken down by Syrian air defenses, as reported by Syrian state media.

"At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down," a U.S. defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available."

Another U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said flatly the United States could not "determine the cause yet," without elaborating.

It was the first such incident since the U.S.-led coalition began carrying out air strikes against the hardline militant Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria last summer.

U.S. officials have previously described Syrian skies as relatively passive, noting that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad had not taken aim at coalition aircraft flying over its territory.

But earlier on Tuesday, Syria's state news agency SANA said Syria's state news agency SANA said on Tuesday its air defenses brought down a U.S. surveillance plane in 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 giving further details. (Reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Alison Williams, John Stonestreet and Ken Wills)

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