US shuts drone base in Ethiopia

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An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies by during a training missionImage source, Getty Images
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The US said the drones launched from Ethiopia were only for surveillance

The United States is shutting down its drone operation in southern Ethiopia.

The US military has been using a base in Arba Minch, some 400km (250 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa, to launch the remotely-piloted aircraft since 2011.

At the time the US told the BBC that the drones were being used only for surveillance and not for air strikes.

They were part of US counter-terrorism efforts in East Africa aimed at groups with links to al-Qaeda.

Security experts in the region say the drones from Ethiopia were used to launch attacks on the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militants al-Shabab.

But the US may have used its military base in Djibouti, which is still operational, to launch these missions.

An official from the US embassy in Addis Ababa told the BBC in an email that following talks with the Ethiopian government "we reached a mutual decision that our presence in Arba Minch is not required at this time".

The official added that "it is important to know that our presence at Arba Minch was never meant to be permanent".

Ethiopia is seen as a close ally of the US in the region, and has soldiers in Somalia supporting the government there in its fight against al-Shabab.