The US Africa Command reportedly lost a drone flying over Libyan airspace. Contact with the drone was lost over the city of Tripoli, controlled by the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). Since April 2019, the GNA has been engaged in a defensive war with the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA).
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced the drone was lost on Thursday in a statement released late Friday. “An unarmed US Africa Command remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) was lost over Tripoli, Libya,” the command said in a statement carried by Agence France-Presse. The command wouldn’t give any reasons for the drone’s loss or its mission at the time it went missing but said it was currently under investigation.
In a general tone, the command said it conducts drone operations in Libya to assess the ongoing security situation and monitor violent extremist activity, which hints towards the lost aircraft being a surveillance drone. “These operations are critical to counter-terror activity in Libya and are fully coordinated with appropriate government officials.” the command added.
The drone is likely to be one of the MQ-9 Reapers based in Sicily, which were used in US operations against Islamic State terrorists in September, which would align with its flight route over the capital city Tripoli. The US also utilizes MQ-1 Predator drones stationed in neighboring Chad and Niger, but their range would not enable them to reach southern Italy to refuel.
The American drone went missing only a day after fellow NATO member, Italy, confirmed its own drone crashed near the city of Tarhouna, 65 kilometers southeast of Tripoli. A spokesman for the LNA claimed their forces downed the drone using anti-aircraft missiles.
Earlier in June, Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter, the commander of the LNA, claimed to have shot down a Turkish flying over Mitiga Airport, Libya’s last operational international airport. While the GNA also claimed to have downed a UAE drone in July, near Misrata .