Embassy spokesman says base in Arba Minch ‘isn’t required at this time’

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Associated Press)—The U.S. government has shut down its drone operation base in southern Ethiopia, an embassy official announced.

A decision has been reached that the base in Arba Minch, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa, is no longer necessary, embassy spokesman David Kennedy told the Associated Press by email.

“U.S. military personnel are no longer in Arba Minch,” Kennedy said. “In our ongoing bilateral discussions on defense cooperation, we reached a mutual decision that our presence in Arba Minch isn’t required at this time.”

Ethiopian media reported on the base when it was set up in 2011 but the U.S. has never publicly confirmed its existence.

A security expert in Addis Ababa, who insisted on anonymity for fear of Ethiopian government reprisal, said the base was used to attack Islamic extremists in Somalia.

Ethiopia is a staunch backer of the U.S. in East Africa and has sent hundreds of troops to Somalia to counter the Islamist rebel group al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s East African affiliate.

Although Ethiopia has a history of human rights violations, it is also a key U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian troops were sent to Somalia between 2006 and 2009 to defeat extremists, and were redeployed in 2011 to combat al-Shabaab, which is fighting the internationally backed Somali government.

The rebels were pushed out of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 with the help of African Union troops. But al-Shabaab still carries out numerous guerrilla attacks in Somalia and the countries contributing A.U. troops, including Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda.

Source: WSJ
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