U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has confirmed that an unarmed American drone over the Libyan capital last month was shot down by Russian air defenses, reported Reuters.
Africom dropped three headlines via Reuters in the overnight, revealing how the surveillance drone was shot down over Tripoli.
EXCLUSIVE-U.S. MILITARY BELIEVES UNARMED US DRONE REPORTED LOST NEAR LIBYA'S CAPITAL LAST MONTH WAS SHOT DOWN BY RUSSIAN AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS
EXCLUSIVE-U.S. MILITARY'S AFRICA COMMAND SAYS IT IS DEMANDING RETURN OF US DRONE WRECKAGE
EXCLUSIVE-U.S. MILITARY SAYS AIR DEFENSES WERE OPERATED EITHER BY RUSSIAN CONTRACTORS IN LIBYA OR HAFTAR'S "LIBYAN NATIONAL ARMY"
The headlines specify Russian military contractors have operated alongside east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya's bloody civil war. The contractors used Russian missile defense systems last month to shoot down a US drone.
Africom's Gen. Stephen Townsend told Reuters in a statement that he believes the Russian air defense operators "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," Townsend said.
Africom's spokesman Air Force Col. Christopher Karns told Reuters that either Russian military contractors or Haftar's Libyan National Army were operating Russian missile launchers at the time the incident was reported around Nov. 21.
Karns said Africom believes air defense operators accidentally shot down the US drone after "mistaking it for an opposition" aircraft.
Townsend also said Russia's increasing presence in Oil-rich Libya had alarmed Africom.
"This highlights the malign influence of Russian mercenaries acting to influence the outcome of the civil war in Libya, and who are directly responsible for the recent and sharp increase in fighting, casualties and destruction around Tripoli," Townsend said.
Libya was thrown into civil war nearly a decade ago when NATO forces overthrew Moammar Gadhafi. It's been another great blunder for Western military forces who've spent the last several decades crusading around the Middle East.
The latest outbreak of fighting has been based in Tripoli. Since about 2015, Libya has seen its government splintered into two, one based in Tripoli and the other in the country's east. The eastern government forces have been attempting to recapture Tripoli since April, and fierce fighting in the capital continues into the late year.