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Report: US Expanding Anti-Terror Operations in Djibouti

  • VOA News

An undated handout image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force shows a unmanned MQ-1 Predator drone.

An undated handout image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force shows a unmanned MQ-1 Predator drone.

A Washington newspaper reports the United States has sharply escalated its counter-terrorism operations at a military base in the East African nation of Djibouti.

The Washington Post says unmanned drones on missions over Somalia and Yemen take off or land at the base an average of 16 times per day.

It says about 300 personnel plan raids and coordinate the flights from inside a high-security compound at the base, Camp Lemmonier.

Speaking to reporters Friday, U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little said the base plays an important role in U.S. international security efforts.

"[As] you know, Africa is becoming more and more important for the security and prosperity of the international community," he said. "There are threats in the region and our presence there is intended in part to address some of the threats in the region," Little said.

The Post said the Djibouti base has also become home to a squadron of F-15 fighter jets, which it reports are flying combat missions over Yemen in the war against al-Qaida.

The Pentagon spokesman confirmed there are fighter jets at Lemonnier but did not confirm they are used in operations over Yemen.

The U.S. is also known to operate drones from two other East African countries -- Ethiopia and the Seychelles islands.

But the Post says those operations are nothing compared to the one at Camp Lemonnier. The paper calls Lemonnier the centerpiece of an expanding U.S. network of drone and surveillance bases in Africa, created to combat terrorist groups across the continent, including al-Qaida and Somalia's al-Shabab.

It says the Defense Department is planning to spend $1.4 billion to expand its facilities at the Djibouti base. Pentagon spokesman Little said the size of the camp is not expanding but that the U.S. is doing additional construction at the site.

Camp Lemonnier is the only U.S. military base in Africa.

The Post says it based its report on unclassified military records it obtained, including construction blueprints, drone accident reports and internal planning memos.

Earlier this month, the Post reported the Obama administration is considering military strikes against al-Qaida militants in North Africa. Al-Qaida-affiliated groups seized control of northern Mali after a coup toppled Mali's government in March.