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U.S. Says Russian Missiles Intended For Syria Have Crashed In Iran

Russian cruise missiles that were fired from warships in the Caspian sea and were intended to hit Syrian targets crashed in Iran, instead, a U.S. official tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

Tom reports that the missiles landed in a rural area of Iran. Local television, Tom reports, said "that something crashed and exploded near the northern city of Tekab, shattering windows and leaving a large crater."

CNN, which first reported the story, said it is still unclear if they caused any damage. The network reports:

"Monitoring by U.S. military and intelligence assets has concluded that at least four missiles crashed as they flew over Iran. One official said there may be casualties, but another official said this is not yet known.

"... The Russian ships have been positioned in the south Caspian Sea, meaning the likely flight path for missiles into Syria would cross over both Iran and Iraq.

"The Russians have been firing a relatively new cruise missile called 'Kaliber,' using it for the first time in combat."

In a post on Facebook, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that they make all their missile strikes public in near real time.

"To the dismay of our friends in the Pentagon and Langley, our strike yesterday with precision-guided weapons at ISIS infrastructure in Syria hit its targets," the statement read.

The New York Times reports that official state media in Iran also cast doubt on the American claim. The paper reports:

"The Iranian state news media made no immediate mention of the crashes on Thursday, but one semiofficial outlet, the Fars News Agency, noted the CNN report and called it an example of American propaganda against Russia. The agency also called it 'psychological warfare.'

Amid this news, NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to raise concerns about Russia's military actions.

Michele reports:

"State Department spokesman John Kirby wouldn't discuss the reports of errant Russian cruise missiles, but he says Kerry has been talking to Lavrov about Moscow's targets, most of which, Kirby says, are not against the Islamic State.

"Kirby also said the secretary is trying to revive a political track for Syria, even as the U.S. accuses of Russia of propping up the Bashar Assad regime and prolonging Syria's civil war."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.