Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Report: U.S. building drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula



Bases are being established to target al-Qaida affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, Washington Post reports.


The United States is building secret drone bases to target al-Qaida affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, a news report said Wednesday.
One base is being built Ethiopia, a U.S. ally against al-Shabab, the militant group that controls much of Somalia, the Washington Post reported, quoted U.S. officials.
The U.S. is also building an airfield somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula to launch armed drones over Yemen, the report said.
There have also been discussions to use an airfield in the Seychelles, currently a base for unmanned patrols over Somalia, to launch armed drones, the report said, quoting diplomatic cables.
The move extends the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by the U.S., which has already deployed them in lethal strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, the Washington Post said.
The Seychelles has hosted U.S. drones since September 2009, officially unarmed ones only to track pirates.
But according to diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, drones based in the Seychelles have also been used for missions over Somalia, 1,300 kilometers away.
The cables reported that U.S. diplomats and Seychelles President James Michel in September 2009 agreed in principle on the possibility of armed the drones in future, the report said.
U.S. drones resumed flights out of the Seychelles this month after operations were suspended in April, Lieutenant Commander James D Stockman, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the Seychelles base, was quoted as saying.
The U.S. military was aiming to create overlapping circles of surveillance against current and future al-Qaida-linked threats in the region, the report quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying.
Negotiations with Ethiopia for a drone base have been going on for as long as four years, but the African country has recently become more cooperative in light of the threat it faces from al-Shabab, the report said, quoting a senior U.S. official.
Ethiopian operatives currently provide valuable intelligence to the U.S. on al-Shabab communications and movements, a former U.S. intelligence official was quoted as saying.