An unmanned Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed in the vicinity of Benghazi, Libya, earlier this week, prompting an investigation by U.S. Africa Command, officials confirmed Wednesday.
In a statement provided to Military Times, U.S. AFRICOM spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Pietrack said that the “aircraft was operating in support of U.S. Ambassador and Special Envoy to Libya Richard Norland’s diplomatic engagements” when it crashed.
Pietrack added that the aircraft’s operation schedule had already been “coordinated with the appropriate Libyan authorities. ... We do not have any further information at this time.”
It remains unclear whether the drone crash was the result of enemy fire, though there are reports it was shot down by eastern-based Libyan forces, according to Reuters. The U.S. previously lost an unmanned drone in Libya in 2019 while monitoring for extremist activity in the area.
Unconfirmed photos and video shared by a think tank associate, including photos of the smoldering crash site, illustrate how the dramatic incident possibly unfolded.
Any potential response to the incident from the U.S., meanwhile, will likely involve Gen. Michael Langley, who assumed control of U.S. AFRICOM earlier this month.
The political and security situation in Libya has been deteriorating for some time, with multiple governments now competing for power and concerns escalating over the country’s connection to a Russian paramilitary organization called the Wagner Group.
“We call on those who risk once again being dragged into violence to put down their arms and in particular urge Libya’s leaders to recommit themselves without delay to identifying a constitutional basis for presidential and parliamentary elections,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media