An Iraqi militia group claimed to have downed a MQ-9 Reaper drone
An American military drone has “crashed” north of the Iraqi capital, a Pentagon official told multiple media outlets, declining to offer details. The incident comes weeks after a US drone strike killed a local militia leader in Baghdad, an attack denounced by the Iraqi government.
The UAV went down on Thursday night near Balad air base, located around 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Baghdad, the unnamed defense official said in a statement obtained by AFP, RIA Novosti and other news agencies.
“Iraqi security forces recovered the aircraft. There were no injuries reported,” the official said on Friday, adding that “an investigation of the cause of the crash is underway.”
While the official gave no indication of whether the drone suffered a technical issue or was downed by enemy fire, the admission came just hours after a local militia group – the Islamic Resistance in Iraq – claimed to have targeted a US MQ-9 Reaper, which are used for both surveillance and air strikes.
“Mujahideen yesterday targeted… an MQ-9 drone belonging to the American occupation,” the group said in a statement on Friday.
Unconfirmed footage purporting to show the expensive US drone plummeting from the sky engulfed in flames has made the rounds online – while another clip appeared to depict the aftermath of the crash, with debris seen scattered on the ground.
🔴🔥 لحظة إسقاط الطائرة الأمريكية MQ9 على يد المقاومة الإسلامية في العراق امس.. ثمن هذه الطائرة المسيرة 32 مليون دولار
🔴🔥 The moment the American MQ9 drone was shot down by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq.. The price of this drone is 32 million $ pic.twitter.com/6QeMAQHAi0
— 💡 Aboelعla🤺 (@A3A3A3A123) January 20, 2024
Washington has launched a series of deadly strikes on Iraq and Syria in recent months, most targeting militia groups with alleged links to Iran. An American drone strike on Baghdad earlier this month killed militia leader Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al-Jawari, who headed up Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, a Shia armed group said to have ties to the Islamic Resistance faction.
A military spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani condemned the strike as an “unjustified attack on an Iraqi security entity” that was operating with official authorization. Al-Jawari had served as a commander in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a loose collection of state-sanctioned paramilitaries formed in 2014 to help beat back Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).
Another high-profile US drone strike near the Baghdad International Airport in January 2020 resulted in the death of PMF deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as Qassem Solemani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. That attack was also denounced by Baghdad, with then-PM Adel Abdul Mahdi calling it “aggression on Iraq as a state, government and people.”
January 20, 2024 at 10:28AM