US considering share of drone data with Algeria to target militants
Iran Press TV
Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:14AM GMT
The US ambassador to Algeria and top American "counterterrorism" officials have pressed the Obama administration to share drone surveillance data with Algerian security forces to facilitate the killing or capture of militants within and across their borders.
Under the suggested plan, information from American spy drones would be relayed to Algerian military forces "to enable them to engage in operations" both inside as well as across the nation's borders to kill or nab "extremists" militants, with the prime target being Algerian native Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the alleged mastermind of an attack on an Algerian gas field last month that left 37 dead, including three Americans, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
This is while the US is already offering data from its spying drones operating over North Africa to French military forces invading Mali under the pretext of combating militants in its former colony.
Citing Obama administration officials, the report say the US Ambassador to Algiers, Henry Ensher, urged Washington "in a cable to the State Department" to set the hunt for Belmokhtar as "a priority."
Ensher specifically recommended that the Obama administration "tell the Algerians that if they allowed the United States to fly unarmed drones over the border area of Algeria as well as over Mali, the Americans would share the information with the Algerian government," says the report.
The daily further cites "one senior American official who insisted on anonymity" as saying that at a meeting of President Barack Obama's top national security deputies at the White House last week, "there was broad agreement among policy makers and intelligence officials" that Belmokhtar and "members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb should be aggressively pursued," though no decision was reached on formally posing the idea to the Algerians.
Meanwhile, Obama announced last week that nearly 100 US military forces were deployed to the West African nation of Niger, neighboring Mali, in a bid to construct another drone base in the continent for further assassination and spying operations in the region.
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