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Vol. 75/No. 36      October 10, 2011

US steps up killer drone
hits in Yemen and Somalia
(front page)
Washington is stepping up use of aerial attack drones targeting Islamist leaders in Somalia and Yemen and establishing four new bases for the robot assassins in the Horn of Africa. Under discussion is whether to also use drones to kill unidentified suspected Islamist combatants in the two countries, as they do in Pakistan.

A long-standing U.S. drone base in Djibouti has been used to target al-Qaeda forces in Yemen. Now the U.S. military is reopening a drone base on the island of Seychelles off the coast of East Africa. Previously, the base was used to deploy drones for surveillance purposes. But now bases there will deploy MQ-9 Reapers armed with Hellfire missiles and guided 500-pound bombs.

Seychelles is less than 900 miles from Somalia, where Washington has been going after al-Shabab, an Islamist group allied with al-Qaeda. Some 100 U.S. troops and “contractors” operate out of the base. Another is planned for Ethiopia and a fourth for an unnamed Arab country, according to the Washington Post.

Drone attacks in Yemen and Somalia are carried out under White House approval, the Post reports. In Pakistan targets are selected by the CIA and U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.

The New York Times reported September 16 that there is a debate within the Pentagon and State Department “on whether the United States may take aim at only a handful of high-level leaders of militant groups who are personally linked to plots to attack the United States or whether it may also attack the thousands of low-level foot soldiers.” In Pakistan, the paper noted, Washington uses “‘signature’ strikes—those that are aimed at killing clusters of people whose identities are not known but who are deemed likely members of a militant group.” The approach has killed hundreds of combatants fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan along with many civilians.

Speaking at Harvard University September 16, Obama’s “counterterrorism” adviser John Brennan said, “The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to ‘hot’ battlefields like Afghanistan. We reserve the right to take unilateral action if or when other governments are unwilling or unable to take the necessary actions themselves.”

The Post said the Obama administration has “significantly increased” drone attacks on Yemen in recent months. In both Yemen and Somalia, the paper added, several drone strikes are reported by local media every week.

A drone attack on the southern Somalia port city of Kismayo September 15 killed as many as 26 people, the Independent reported. Drones have struck in Yemen’s Abayan province, where Islamist groups opposed to the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh have seized control, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Related articles:
US rulers use Libya war to boost clout in Africa
US gov’t prepares long-term Iraq presence  
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