June 21, 2011 / 10:19 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-NATO says lost unmanned helicopter in Libya

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BRUSSELS, June 21 (Reuters) - NATO said it lost an unmanned helicopter drone over Libya on Tuesday but denied a Libyan state television report that it was a manned Apache aircraft.

A NATO statement said the “unmanned autonomous helicopter drone” was on a intelligence surveillance mission over Libya and lost contact with its command centre.

“We are looking into the reasons behind the incident,” NATO military spokesman Wing Commander Mike Bracken said in the statement.

He denied a Libyan state television report that a NATO Apache attack helicopter came down over Libya. “NATO confirms it has not lost any attack helicopter,” he said.

NATO officials declined to identify the nationality or type of the aircraft, but NATO sources said the alliance has been operating the MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopter drone, made by U.S. firm Northrop Grumman , over Libya.

The aircraft is the first reported lost by NATO over Libya since took over the air strike mission on March 31.

A U.S. F-15E fighter jet taking part in pre-NATO-led strikes on Libya by a Western coalition crashed in March. Its crew ejected safely and the United States blamed a mechanical failure for the crash. (Editing by Jon Boyle)

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