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Libya claims it shot down US drone by accident

Air Force officials are seeking volunteers for future training classes to produce operators of the MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt)
November 26, 2019

Libyan officials claimed its military shot down a U.S. drone last week by accident.

The U.S. military said it lost contact with the drone while it was conducting a security assessment of activity over Tripoli, Associated Press reported. Libyan forces are currently attempting to capture, the city from Islamic militants.

A senior official in the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar told The Associated Press the LNA had apologized for shooting down the American drone and “agreed with the Americans to coordinate their operations over Tripoli and its surrounding areas to avoid similar incidents in the future.”

Libya has been divided into two main governing factions, following the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The eastern government in the city Tobruk, allied to the LNA has opposed the western government, or Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. The Tripoli government has been supported by the United Nations.

The LNA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the LNA mistook the U.S. drone for a Turkish-built drone provided to the militias fighting for the Tripoli government.

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The LNA imposed a “no-fly zone” over Tripoli on Saturday. They said that all flights over the capital city and nearby towns are “prohibited without prior coordination.”

The U.S. military withdrew its troops from Libya in April when local military forces advanced on the capital for a showdown with militias holding the city, Stars and Stripes reported.

“Due to increased unrest in Libya, a contingent of U.S. forces supporting U.S. Africa Command temporarily relocated in response to security conditions on the ground,” AFRICOM said in a statement.

“We will continue to monitor conditions on the ground and assess the feasibility for renewed U.S. military presence, as appropriate,” said Nate Herring, an AFRICOM spokesman.

U.S. officials were “deeply concerned” about the battles near Libya at the time they pulled troops out and asked the Russian-backed LNA leaders, under Haftar’s command, to immediately halt the offensive.

“We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement from Washington on April 7. “This unilateral military campaign against Tripoli is endangering civilians and undermining prospects for a better future for all Libyans.”

“There is no military solution to the Libya conflict,” Pompeo’s statement continued. “This is why the United States continues to press Libyan leaders, together with our international partners, to return to political negotiations mediated by UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salame.”