TRIPOLI – The US Africa Command announced on Saturday that an unarmed American drone had been shot down by Russian air defense systems near the capital city of Tripoli in November, and demanded the return of the unmanned aircraft’s wreckage.
The operators of the air defense systems “didn’t know it was a US remotely piloted aircraft when they fired on it. But they certainly know who it belongs to now and they are refusing to return it. They say they don’t know where it is but I am not buying it”, General Stephen Townsend, who leads the Africa Command, told Reuters in a statement, without elaborating.
According to Africa Command Spokesman Air Force Colonel Christopher Karns, the drone was reported lost on November 21. He added, that the air defense system may have downed the drone, believing it was an opposition aircraft. At the same time, an official from the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is fighting against the Libyan National Army (LNA), told the news agency that a Russian PMC appeared to be responsible.
Neither the Russian Defence Ministry nor the Foreign Ministry has commented on the accusations. Libya has been mired in a civil war since 2011, when its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed by Western-backed terrorists amid NATO strikes against the country.
Over recent years, Libya has been split between two rival governments, with the LNA governing the country’s east, and the GNA ruling in the west including Tripoli. They attempted to agree on national elections but failed, and since early April, the LNA has been engaged in an offensive to gain control over Tripoli with the GNA thus far resisting the advance.