An unarmed U.S. Reaper drone crashed on landing at the main airport in the capital of Niger on Monday, damaging the runway but causing no injuries, airport sources in Niger and the U.S. Air Force said.
Washington deployed unarmed surveillance drones in Niger after a French-led military operation in 2013 destroyed an al Qaeda enclave in neighbouring northern Mali.
Supported by some 120 U.S. military personnel, they operate from a base outside the capital Niamey, though the United States is considering moving the operation to Agadez, 750 km (460 miles) northeast of Niamey.
Two airport sources in Niger who declined to be identified said the drone crashed on its return from a surveillance mission. The private Anfani radio station said the crash occurred between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
An unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drone made a hard landing and damaged the runway at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey causing no injuries, said a U.S. Air Force official.
“The U.S. government is working closely with the government of Niger to secure the scene and mitigate inconveniences caused by the incident,” the official said. The official did not give a cause for the crash and said it was being investigated.
AFP reports that the airport stayed closed until 12:30 to repair the damage to the runway and that an aircraft carrying pilgrims on their way back from Mecca had to be diverted to Ouagadougou. Planes could be seen landing at Niamey airport again in the afternoon, a security source told AFP.