US deploys Predator drones to Niger: official
WASHINGTON: The United States has deployed several Predator drones to Niger to fly surveillance missions in support of French forces in Mali, a US defence official said Friday.
The unarmed robotic aircraft are flying out of Niamey at a base with a 100-strong contingent of Air Force personnel, the defence official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Consistent with our partners in the region, this decision allows for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) operations within the region,” the defence official said.
President Barack Obama announced earlier on Friday that the US troops were sent to the West African country to provide “support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region.”
The slow-flying turboprop planes, along with the more advanced Reaper drone, are known as the weapon of choice in a covert CIA air war against al Qaeda militants mostly in Pakistan and Yemen.
But officials insisted the drones sent to Niger would not be equipped with missiles and instead would be used purely for spying on militants in Mali. afp