The U.S. is ramping up its efforts to attack al-Qaida affiliates in Somalia and Yemen by establishing a “constellation of secret drone bases” in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, The Washington Post reported.
One such base will be established in Ethiopia, an American ally in the fight against the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, according to The Post. The U.S. military has also reopened a base for armed drones on the island nation of Seychelles, in order to escalate a campaign of strikes and reconnaissance within Somalia.
As the Obama administration seeks to seize the momentum after the covert U.S. operation that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound in May, officials are concerned that the terrorist network is looking to increase operations among its affiliates in East Africa. They’re also concerned about the voiced intentions of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab, and Nigerian Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram to synchronize their efforts to train militants and carry out attacks.
The U.S. had used Reaper drones for surveillance from the Seychelles base-- about 920 miles east from the southern tip of Somalia—from the fall of 2009 until this past spring, The Wall Street Journal reported. In addition to their reconnaissance capabilities, the new MQ-9 Reapers deployed to the reopened base can be configured for strike missions, capable of firing Hellfire missiles, as well as guided 500-pound bombs, to supplement strikes from a U.S. drone base in Djibouti, officials told The Journal.
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