- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Pentagon has assessed that Russian private military contractors may have shot down an unarmed American drone lost over Libya late last month, a report said Saturday.

Reuters reported that the U.S. military believes the drone was downed near Tripoli by air defenses operated by either the so-called Libyan National Army or Russian mercenaries.

Army General Stephen Townsend, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said the Defense Department has unsuccessfully sought to recover the drone’s wreckage since it was reported lost Nov. 21, Reuters reported.

In a statement, he said the operators controlling the air defenses at the time likely “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft when they fired on it,” Reuters reported.

“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,” he told Reuters, according to the outlet.

Led by Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan National Army, or LNA, is among rival factions participating in an ongoing civil war in the region.

Mohammed Ali Abdallah, an advisor for U.S. affairs in Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord, said more than 1,400 Russian mercenaries were deployed with the LNA, Reuters reported.

Russia denies using military contractors in foreign conflicts, and the LNA denied receiving support from abroad, Reuters reported.

U.S. Africa Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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