Libyan officials: U.S. drones behind airport closure

Associated Press Modified: September 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm •  Published: September 14, 2012
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BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — U.S. drones hovered over the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday and militia forces fired toward the crafts, prompting authorities to close the airport for several hours for fear a commercial aircraft could be hit, Libyan officials said.

Abdel-Basit Haroun, the head of the militia in charge of city security, said the drones could easily be spotted from the ground. He says men angry over perceived foreign intervention fired in the air and authorities closed the airport.

"The drones are like bees," he said, referring to the long hours the drones were seen, with their buzzing noise heard in different neighborhoods of Benghazi. Militias, known as brigades, fought regime forces during Libya's eight-month civil war that led to Moammar Gadhafi's fall last year. Since then, many have roles in keeping security, though they have not been integrated into government forces.

An airport official confirmed the firing on the drones was the reason for the airport shutdown.

U.S. officials said drones in Libya include Predators and Reapers, which are being used for surveillance and are largely unarmed. While drones have been there consistently, officials have increased their coverage and cycles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak to the media.

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