- The Washington Times - Monday, January 25, 2021

A U.S. military drone malfunctioned and was forced to make an emergency landing in Niger over the weekend, Pentagon officials said after images emerged on social media that seem to show the MQ-1C Gray Eagle sitting in an abandoned field near the city of Agadez.

The unmanned aerial vehicle appears to be equipped with Hellfire missiles.

“A U.S. Africa Command remotely piloted aircraft conducted an emergency landing in the vicinity of Agadez, Niger, Jan. 23. The aircraft experienced a mechanical malfunction while conducting a routine mission in support of operations in the region,” U.S. Africa Command said in a statement. “An investigation into the cause of the malfunction will take place. The aircraft is under observation.”

America’s military role in Niger remains somewhat mysterious. U.S. forces are stationed in the region as part of a multinational effort to battle extremist groups that have sprung up across northern Africa in recent years.

The Pentagon has offered no information about the malfunctioning drone’s specific mission, but it seems highly likely that it was related to the anti-terror campaign.

The region has seen a number of high-profile instances involving U.S. troops in recent years.
In 2017, four U.S. Green Berets and four Nigerien soldiers were killed in a 2017 ambush by Islamic State fighters.

The U.S. forces had deployed alongside their Nigerien counterparts in pursuit of a militant affiliated with the Islamic State. Unable to locate the target, the forces began to return to their bases but were ambushed near the village of Tongo Tongo in what appeared to be a pre-planned enemy assault.

Last October, U.S. special forces carried out a daring raid just across the Niger border in Nigeria to rescue Philip Walton, a 27-year-old American citizen taken hostage by armed gunmen.

Mr. Walton and his family lived on a Niger farm near the Nigerian border. 

On the other side of the continent, about 700 U.S. troops recently withdrew from Somalia, where they had been training Somali government forces and conducting an air war against the al-Shabab terror group. Pentagon officials said those troops relocated to other military bases in east Africa and will continue their mission.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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