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US loses drone over Niger

The U.S. military says it lost an MQ-1 drone on Saturday near Agadez, Niger, according to U.S. Africa Command.

“Our initial and current assessment is that the RPA [remotely piloted aircraft] was lost due to mechanical failure. We do not believe the RPA was lost as a result of any hostile action,” Navy Lt. Christina M. Gibson, a spokeswoman with U.S. Africa Command, told Military Times in an email Monday.

Pictures of the alleged U.S. drone crash were making the rounds on social media Monday.

Officials with U.S. AFRICOM confirmed to Military Times that the crashed drone was an MQ-1.

Agadez is the site of a new sprawling joint Niger and U.S. air base known as Nigerien Air Base 201. AFRICOM announced in November that the $110 million airfield was conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations out of the base, and was housing armed drones and other aircraft that previously were operating out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

In this photo taken Monday, April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. (Carley Petesch/AP)
Armed drones to fly out of Niger air base now operational after delayed completion

U.S. Africa Command announced Friday that intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations are now being conducted out of the base in Agadez, Niger, which is designed to house armed drones and other aircraft that have historically operated out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

AFRICOM said at the time the new base’s location in central Niger was critical due to the geographic advantages it posed in warding off threats from violent extremist groups in the area.

“Flexible and diverse postures across the African continent enable us to facilitate operational needs and better support our partners in the region,” U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces in Africa, said in a November AFRICOM news release. “The location in Agadez was selected in conjunction with Niger due to the geographic and strategic flexibility it offers to regional security efforts.”

Multiple violent extremist groups exist in West Africa, including Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. AFRICOM commander Gen. Stephen Townsend told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee in January that violent extremist activity in West Africa had increased 250 percent since 2018.

U.S. troops in West Africa are largely tasked with supporting counterterrorism operations conducted by more than 4,500 French troops in the region. U.S. troops provide logistics support, airlift, intelligence sharing and other things to support U.S. allies.

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