US Drones in Ethiopia Begin Flying Into Somalia

Posted October 28th, 2011 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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The United States has confirmed that it is sending drones based in Ethiopia into neighboring Somalia to conduct surveillance missions.

U.S. military officials say the unmanned Reaper drones are flying from an airfield in the southern Ethiopian city of Arba Minch into Somalia, where the government is battling the al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab.

The drones can be armed with missiles and satellite-guided bombs, but a military spokesman told VOA on Friday the missions are strictly for surveillance purposes.

The spokesman also said the drone operation is unrelated to Kenya's ongoing military offensive inside Somalia.

He said there are no U.S. military bases in Africa, except in Djibouti, and that there are a “limited number of personnel” working on the Ethiopia program.

Kenyan troops moved into Somalia two weeks ago in pursuit of al-Shabab militants, who are suspected of kidnapping several foreigners on Kenyan territory.

On Friday, Kenyan and Somali forces captured the town of Burgabo in the Lower Juba region.

Kenyan troops have now moved within 200 kilometers of the port city of Kismayo, the third largest city in Somalia and an economic hub for al-Shabab.

Last month, the commander of U.S. military operations in Africa said three African-based terrorist groups were working together to threaten U.S. interests in the region.

General Carter Ham said they include Somalia-based al-Shabab, Algeria-based al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. General Ham said the groups intend to share training and operations in order to target Westerners, specifically Americans.