Niger agrees to US drones on its territory

Agreement set to improve collection of intelligence on al-Qaeda-linked groups in northern Mali and the wider Sahara.

    Niger has given permission for US surveillance drones to be stationed on its territory to improve intelligence on al Qaeda-linked fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara, according to a senior government source.

    Bisa Williams, US ambassador to Niger, made the request at a meeting on Monday with Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger president, who immediately accepted it, the source said on Wednesday.

    "Niger has given the green light to accepting [US] surveillance drones on its soil to improve the collection of
    intelligence on Islamist movements," the source, who asked not to be identified, said.

    Niger will be the sixth US drone base in Africa [Al Jazeera]

    The drones could be stationed in Niger's northern desert region of Agadez, which borders Mali, Algeria and Libya, the
    source said.

    Niger will be the sixth African nation to have a US drone base. Other countries with drone bases include: Morocco, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Djibouti.

    A spokesperson for the US African Command (AFRICOM) declined to comment.

    After her talks with Issoufou, Williams said they had discussed economic and military co-operation and development issues.

    She also expressed US appreciation for the French-led military mission to expel an alliance of al-Qaeda-linked fighters from northern Mali.

    General Carter Ham, head of the US Africa Command, visited Niger last month.

    The impoverished and landlocked West African state has said it wants to have closer security co-operation with the US.

    Despite the controversy of the drone programme in countries like Yemen and Pakistan, Robert Densmore, former US naval flight officer and editor of Defence Report, says North Africa is much more likely to be accepting of the unmanned technology.

    "Many people in North Africa rate the risk from al-Qaeda higher" than they did 12 months ago," he told Al Jazeera from London.

    The US already has drones and surveillance aircraft stationed at several points around Africa.

    Its only permanent military base is in the small country of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, more than 5,000km from Mali.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?