An RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft (U.S. Air Force photo via Wikimedia Commons)

(Reuters) - The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone reported lost near Libya's capital last month was in fact shot down by Russian air defenses and it is demanding the return of the aircraft's wreckage, U.S. Africa Command says.

Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow's increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya's civil war.

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A picture made available on 22 August 2019 shows a fighter of Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez Serraj, firing his rifle during clashes with forces of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, at Al-Yarmouk frontline. ( Amru Salahuddien/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

The U.S. is growing increasingly worried that the Russian government is exploiting Libya's five-year-old civil war for Moscow's benefit.

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(Twitter/Libyan Address Journal)

A U.S. Air Force veteran held captive for six weeks by the Libyan military amid allegations that he was a hired mercenary was freed by the U.S. government on Tuesday, the Washington Post first reported.

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Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007, prior to testifying before the House Oversight Committee hearing examining the mission and performance of the private military contractor Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Associated Press/Susan Walsh)

Erik Prince — the former Navy SEAL, Blackwater founder, and self-styled savior of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan — apparently used his secretive meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian moneyman linked to President Vladimir Putin to argue against Moscow's military involvement in Libya.

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(Twitter/@ToyotaWars)

There's really only one message you can send when you roll up in your neighborhood with a 90mm cannon on the back of your vehicle: I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum.

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U.S. Marines in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord. Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Austin/U.S. Navy

The U.S. forces in Libya are temporarily leaving as the security situation on the ground has grown "increasingly complex and unpredictable," the head of U.S. Africa Command, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, said in a statement on Sunday.

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