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Defence Minister Anita Anand declined to speculate on the origins of the object.Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden ordered warplanes to shoot down “an unidentified object” in Canadian airspace over Yukon Saturday, which one government official said was believed to be a surveillance balloon of Chinese or Russian origin.

The object was brought down by a U.S. fighter jet.

The Globe and Mail is not naming the government official because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

In a briefing with reporters on Saturday, Defence Minister Anita Anand said it was not prudent to speculate on the origins of the object, which she described as small and “cylindrical.”

She said the object was shot down at approximately 3:41 p.m., ET, on Saturday over central Yukon. It had been flying at about 12,000 metres, she said.

Ms. Anand said the Canadian Armed Forces is “actively pinpointing the site of the debris now.”

She suggested the object shot down was a balloon but refused to state that as a fact, saying she will await more details. However, she also said it appeared to be smaller than the balloon that was shot down by the United States on Feb. 4.

“From all indications, this object is potentially similar to the one that was shot down off the coast of North Carolina, though smaller in size and cylindrical in nature.”

Gen. Wayne Eyre, the chief of Canada’s defence staff, said the object, which he called a balloon, was taken out by an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile from a U.S. F-22 fighter jet. “The instructions that were given to the team was whoever had the first, best shot to take out the balloon had the go-ahead.”

It’s the third incursion over North America this month that has seen an unidentified object shot down.

The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) first confirmed the object’s presence over northern Canada in a statement late Saturday afternoon, saying military aircraft had been scrambled to intercept it.

Mr. Trudeau later announced on Twitter that the object had been taken down.

“I ordered the take down of an unidentified object that violated Canadian airspace,” the Prime Minister said. “Canadian and U.S. aircraft were scrambled and a U.S. F-22 successfully fired at the object.”

Mr. Trudeau said he had spoken with Mr. Biden, and that “Canadian Forces will now recover and analyze the wreckage of the object.”

The White House said Saturday that NORAD had been tracking the aircraft for about 24 hours and had regularly updated Mr. Biden.

“Out of an abundance of caution and at the recommendation of their militaries, President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau authorized it to be taken down. President Biden authorized US fighter aircraft assigned to NORAD to conduct the operation,” his office said in a statement.

The two leaders discussed the importance of recovering and analyzing the object to figure our where it came from and what it was doing, the White House said.

The Pentagon said NORAD first discovered the object over Alaska Friday, tracking it with two F-22s. Canadian fighter jets joined the formation Saturday after the aircraft crossed the international border. The U.S. Department of Defence said the RCMP and FBI would be working together to further investigate the object once the debris is recovered.

The U.S. military is also monitoring yet another unknown flying object, this time in Montana, and mulling whether to shoot it down, Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale said on Twitter.

The object was near Havre, Montana, just south of the border with Saskatchewan, wrote Mr. Rosendale, whose congressional district includes the area.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it briefly closed the airspace to support Defense Department activities, but declined to say if it was in relation to another balloon or similar object. The FAA temporarily closed airspace over the Carolina coast in response to the Chinese balloon that was shot down earlier this month.

The last object that violated North American airspace was shot down on Friday by a U.S. fighter jet over American territorial waters, in the Beaufort Sea near the border between Alaska and the Yukon.

On Feb. 4, in the first such incident, an American fighter jet shot down a high-altitude surveillance balloon that had drifted across Alaska, western Canada and the continental United States.

U.S. Brig.-Gen. Patrick Ryder told a Pentagon briefing Friday that NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canada air-defence system, first detected the second object via ground radar on Thursday. The second object was much smaller than the spy balloon – roughly the size of a small car, whereas the previous craft was about as large as two or three city buses.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said Mr. Biden ordered the craft shot down on Friday because it was sitting at 12,000 metres, low enough to pose a threat to commercial aircraft. The spy balloon had been far higher, at more than 18,000 metres.

Neither Mr. Kirby nor Brig.-Gen. Ryder would say whether the second object was also a balloon or another kind of vessel. It was also not immediately clear where it had come from or who sent it.

The U.S. military is in the process of recovering pieces of the craft from the ocean floor for analysis. So far, the U.S. has said the balloon was equipped with sensors for monitoring communications. In Montana, it was seen hovering near nuclear-missile silos.

The earliest indication NORAD was aware of the balloon was Tuesday, Jan. 31, when it was over the Canadian Rockies, one day before the U.S. publicized its presence.

Steffan Watkins, an Ottawa-based consultant who tracks aircraft and ships, said based on aircraft movement data, it appears Canada dispatched a CP-140 surveillance aircraft from Comox, B.C., to monitor the balloon that day. Flight-tracking data also suggest Canada intercepted the balloon with CF-18s on Jan. 31, assisted by a CC-150 Polaris refuelling tanker.

An Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Winnipeg encountered the balloon on Jan. 31 near the Canadian Rockies, according to Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System. The flight reported “a large balloon about 4,000 feet above them with something hanging from it” at 11:06 a.m., Pacific Time. The sighting was passed on to NORAD.

With a report from Reuters