October 29, 2011

Ethiopia: US launchs new drone base in Africa

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle | October 28, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – The United States has begun operating drones from a new base in Ethiopia from where US Air Forces will coordinate and fly drones against targets in the Horn of Africa region.

A US military official on Thursday confirmed to the Washington Post that the new base which is positioned in Arba-Minch town, some 480km south of Addis Ababa has gone operational.
The new base is part of the counter-terrorism missions by the US to cripple activities of Al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants and their affiliates inside war ravaged Somalia.

Addis Ababa is considered a valued partner against terrorism by the United States considering Ethiopia’s proximity to Somalia.
“The operation will continue as long as the government of Ethiopia welcomes our cooperation on these varied security programs,” said Master Sergeant James Fisher, a spokesman for the 17th Air Force, which oversees operations in Africa.

The US military has reportedly committed millions of dollars to upgrade the drone base described as a remote civilian airport in the Horn of Africa’s nation.
The military official added that an undisclosed number of air force personnel are deployed at the Ethiopian airfield “to provide operation and technical support for our security assistance programs.”

Drone Aircrafts, commonly known as, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have the capacity to carry missiles and satellite guided bombs for attacks and are commonly used by the US in Afghanistan.
However US officials said that the drones from the Ethiopian base will not be used for air strikes but only for surveillance purpose against Al-Shabab and Al-Qaeda linked operatives in Somalia.

The US has a long established drone base in Djibouti where it carries out air strikes against targets inside Somalia and Yemen. The Obama administration’s growing intention to expand drone bases in the African region is believed also to address the concerns and challenges of rising piracy off the Somali coast.

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