Protests against UK's use of armed drones

More than 200 gather outside UK airbase after remote control of Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan moved from US to Britain.

    Protests against UK's use of armed drones
    The Reaper aircraft had previously been operated remotely from the US [Reuters]

    Anti-war campaigners have marched to an airbase in eastern England military to voice their opposition to Britain's use of armed drones in Afghanistan.

    Saturday's demonstration comes after the operation of the 10 unmanned aircraft was relocated from a base in Nevada in the US to the UK for the first time earlier this week.

    About 200 demonstrators marched to RAF (Royal Air Force) Waddington in Lincolnshire to prottest against the use of the Reaper aircraft which are all based in Afghanistan and can carry 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.

    Campaigners said the move marked a "critical expansion in Britain's drones programme".

    "Drones are indiscriminate weapons of war that have been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths," said a statement from the Stop the War Coalition.

    "Rather than expanding the UK's arsenal, drones should be banned, just as landmines and cluster munitions were banned."

    RAF pilots had previously been operating Reaper aircraft to support British troops fighting the Taliban in the Central Asian nation remotely from the US.

    Although piloted remotely, they are launched and landed with at Kandahar airbase.

    In December 2010, David Cameron, the British prime minister, announced new funding to increase the Reaper programme, although there are no plans to base or fly the drones in Britain, officials say.

    A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said people were entitled to demonstrate but insisted the military did "everything possible" to avoid civilian casualties.

    "We would stress that UK Reaper aircraft are piloted by highly-trained professional military pilots who adhere strictly to the same laws of armed  conflict and are bound by the same clearly-defined rules of engagement which apply to those operating traditionally-manned RAF aircraft," he said.

    SOURCE: AFP


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