A US Air Force drone was downed in Libya this week, in an incident which has prompted an investigation by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM).
According to the Military Times, a statement provided to it by AFRICOM spokesperson, Lieutenant Commander Timothy Pietrack, revealed that the “aircraft was operating in support of US Ambassador and Special Envoy to Libya, Richard Norland’s diplomatic engagements”.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone – crashed earlier this week in the vicinity of the major eastern Libyan city, Benghazi. AFRICOM’s statement is an acknowledgement of the videos and photos of a destroyed drone which circulated around social media over the past few days.
The drone’s operation schedule, Pietrack said, had already been “coordinated with the appropriate Libyan authorities … [but] We do not have any further information at this time.”
According to the Reuters news agency, it remains unclear whether the downing of the drone was a result of enemy fire or that of a certain group, although some reports assert that it was shot down by eastern-based Libyan forces.
Eyewitnesses and local media reports, however, have stated that the UAV was shot down by the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenaries currently in Libya who continue to assist eastern-based forces.
A similar incident took place in 2019, when the US lost an UAV in Libya while monitoring for ‘extremist activity’ over an area.