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US Air Force flight landed in Sierra Leone to refuel, not to arrest

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Claim: A social media user is alleging that 5,000 [officers] from the US Air Force landed at the Sierra Leone International Airport in Lungi, Freetown, to capture an unnamed person.  

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Over the last couple of days, there has been controversy in Sierra Leone over the reason a United States of America military plane landed in the country. 

The aircraft with the inscription  “U.S. AIR FORCE — 8198 – 437 AW, 315 AW” landed at the country’s International Airport, the Lungi Airport, on June 23, 2024.

Social media user Ransford Mann, in a Facebook post, alleged that the military air force’s landing at the Lungi Airport was to capture an unnamed person. He also alleged that 5,000 US Air Force officers were on that flight.

“5,000 US Air Force just landed to capture him!” “I will keep you updated as and when I have more info”  — the post added

DUBAWA took an interest in the claim by Ransford Mann because of his huge Facebook following of about 1.2k  followers – who typically take his posts to be true. The claim was also seen on several closed WhatsApp platforms.

Verification 

DUBAWA contacted the Facebook user to find evidence regarding his post. However, Ransford Mann has since yet to respond to the message.  

DUBAWA then checked the country’s aviation office, the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA), to find whether there had been an official response. DUBAWA sighted a press release which states:  

“LANDING PERMIT FOR NON-SCHEDULE FLIGHT (NS). A permit to operate non-scheduled flight into Sierra Leone is hereby granted. . .” 

The press release indicated further “Pursuant to Part X of the Civil Aviation Act 2023 to:  “UNITED STATES EMBASSY (Technical stop fuel only).” 

Image showing a Landing Permit granted to the U.S. Embassy for the US Air Force flight to land at the Freetown International Airport. Image Source: Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) in Freetown 

Government’s reaction 

The country’s Ministry of Information and Civic Education (MICE) reacted to the claims with a press release and agreement paper made between the United States Embassy in Freetown and the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA). They asserted the rights/powers the aviation authority had given to the embassy for the U.S Air Force – 8198 AW flight to land at the Freetown International Airport for refuelling. 

The Ministry, on its official Facebook page, indicated thus: 

“We are taking extraordinary steps to release both the request and the issued permit for the United States Department of Defense aircraft that landed at and departed from Lungi Airport today.” 

The United States Embassy’s Reaction 

DUBAWA contacted an official at the U.S. Embassy Communications Team, Mr. Alhassan Jalloh, by phone to confirm whether the Embassy had issued an official statement about the matter. 

Alhassan confirmed to DUBAWA that the Embassy’s Facebook page with a blue tick is a valid account of the U.S. Embassy in Freetown. 

“Whatever message you come across on the official and verified Facebook page of the U.S Embassy in Freetown is correct because the page is the valid Facebook hub where the Embassy communicates all its activities to the people of Sierra Leone,” – Jalloh explained further to DUBAWA.   

DUBAWA conducted desktop research to determine the number of passengers a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III can take. The checks suggest it can carry 134 passengers, 102 paratroopers, and other stretcher patients.

On its official Facebook handle, the United States of America Embassy in Freetown cleared the air regarding the viral allegations. The message on the Embassy’s official Facebook page states: 

“We are aware of some misinformation about a U.S Air Force plane that was seen landing at Lungi Airport.” The post further disclosed: “A plane landed for routine refuelling and promptly left Sierra Leone. Rumours of the plane landing for any other purpose are false.”

Conclusion 

Based on the findings from DUBAWA’s investigations, it is false that the US Aircraft landed with 5,000 officers to capture an unknown person. 

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