The U.S. Air Force has been secretly flying armed droves on counterterrorism missions from a base in southern Ethiopia, The Washington Post reports.
Military officials confirmed to The Post on Thursday that the Air Force has invested millions of dollars in an airfield in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, as part of counterterrorism efforts against al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaida in East Africa. The armed Reaper drones housed on this site can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs, The Post reports, and they began flying missions over Somalia earlier this year.
In light of the 1993 “Black Hawk down” incident in which two U.S. military helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans were killed in Somalia, the Obama administration has relied on drone attacks and U.S. Special Forces missions in lieu of deploying troops to the country. But Master Sgt. James Fischer, a spokesman for the 17th Air Force, which overseas operations in Africa, told The Post that some Air Force personnel are working at the airfield “to provide operation and technical support for our security-assistance programs.”