US flying armed drones out of Ethiopia, report say

Published: October 28, 2011

The US Air Force is flying armed drones from a civilian airport in southern Ethiopia as part of a growing battle against Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Citing unnamed US officials, the Post reports that the airfield in Arba Minch is part of a network of secret bases for unmanned aircraft in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. But the US Air Force and the Pentagon declined to comment on the report.
The Post said the US Air Force has spent millions of dollars to improve the airfield in Ethiopia to accommodate a fleet of Reaper drones that carry Hellfire missiles and precision-guided bombs.
Under President Barack Obama, the United States has increasingly turned to drones to carry out covert strikes against Al-Qaeda and allied militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
The raids are conducted under the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency, not the military, but special operations forces and drone aircraft can be assigned to the spy agency for the strikes.
A spokesman for the 17th Air Force, which is assigned to operations in Africa, told the Post the drone flights will continue as long as the Ethiopia government welcomes US cooperation on these varied security programmes.
The United States and Ethiopia both view Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia as a threat, and Washington backed Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006.
In support of the Ethiopian incursion, US AC-130 gunships carried out attacks from a base in Ethiopia. The government however ended the arrangement once it became public.
Kenya sent forces into southern Somalia 12 days ago to chase Al-Shabaab militants, but has denied the United States or other Western countries are actively involved in the military operations.
Source: AFP

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