U.S. officials say the U.S. military has lost contact with an unarmed Predator drone as it flew over the Syrian port city of Latakia. The Syrian news agency has said that drone was brought down by Syrian air defenses, but U.S. officials could not confirm that report.
"We can confirm that at approximately 1:40 p.m. EDT today, U.S. military controllers lost contact with an U.S. MQ-1 Predator unarmed remotely piloted aircraft operating over northwest Syria," said a defense official. "At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down. We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available."
Latakia is a major Syrian port and has been under the control of Syrian government forces.
Photos and videos appeared on social media sites Tuesday showing what appeared to be the wreckage of what was claimed to be an American drone that had been flying over Latakia Tuesday evening local time.
One photo appeared to show pieces of wreckage falling from the night sky in flames.
U.S. officials said it was unclear if the U.S. drone was shot down as the Syrians claimed or if it crashed because of mechanical problems.
The Syrian military has one of the largest air defense systems in the Middle East, but it has not engaged any of the U.S. or coalition aircraft that have been flying over Syria conducting reconnaissance and airstrikes against ISIS.
If the American drone was brought down by Syrian air defenses it could create a new security dynamic for the American and coalition aircraft that have had free rein over Syrian airspace since last summer.