US sets up new drone base in Niger
Iran Press TV
Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:54AM GMT
The United States has set up a drone base in Niger apparently to back up French troops in Mali and to fight al-Qaeda in Africa, a report says.
The Washington Post said in a report issued on Friday that the base had been established in the Nigerien capital of Niamey.
"We just know there are drones; we don't know what they are doing exactly," the Post cited Djibril Abarchi, the chairman of the Nigerien Association for the Defense of Human Rights.
"Nothing is visible - there is no transparency in our country with military questions. No one can tell you what's going on," Abarchi stated.
Unarmed US Predator drones fly out of the base, which is surrounded by a razor-wire-topped wall, with a 100-strong contingent of US Air Force personnel, the Post said.
On February 22, US President Barack Obama announced that 100 US military personnel had been sent to Niger to provide "support for intelligence collection" and to "facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region."
The new US drone base is expected to join a constellation of small airstrips for surveillance missions by drones or turboprop planes on the African continent in the coming years.
The United States carries out drone operations in several countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
In January, Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, signed a status-of-forces agreement with the United States, clearing the way for a more convenient military involvement in the country by Washington.
Niger is a mostly desert country on the eastern border of Mali.
France launched a war on Mali on January 11 under the pretext of halting the advance of fighters who control the north of the country. The war has left thousands of Malians homeless.
Commentators say Mali's abundant natural resources, including gold and uranium reserves, could be one of the reasons behind the French war.
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