Secret base for drones stories untrue, says US


02-November-2011

“The only drones we have here are the ones everybody can see at the Seychelles International Airport and they are unarmed. Everybody can see them so how much credibility do those stories have?” he asked our journalist during a recent interview in our office.

The articles said the “US military has reopened a base for the unmanned aircraft on the island nation of Seychelles to intensify attacks on al Qaeda affiliates, particularly in Somalia,” adding:

“The US has used the Seychelles base for flying surveillance drones, and for the first time will fly armed MQ-9 Reapers from the Indian Ocean site, supplementing strikes from a US drone base in Djibouti.”

But Mr Fitrell said the US has no plans to attack targets in Somalia or other parts of eastern Africa from Seychelles.
“These drones which are based here are unarmed and we have never requested that they be armed, he said, discounting suggestions that there may be plans to have armed drones on any of the other 114 islands in the archipelago.

“Our operations are from Mahe and nowhere else,” he said.
The United States government does absolutely nothing without the direct and explicit approval of the government of Seychelles. We do not impose programmes on the government of Seychelles.

“It’s a cooperative venture. We look at issues and we tend to have the same general beliefs on what is to be done.”

Mr Fitrell said the drones can carry weapons but the US has never asked Seychelles authorities that they do.
“To make such a change would require us to go back to the Government of Seychelles and ask, and get permission before we move the first item but we have no plans to do that,” he said.

He stressed the drones are not here only to deal with problems emanating from Somalia:
“There is the range of the western Indian Ocean and the drones are designed to help do surveillance and reconnaissance and to counter all illegal activities in the western Indian Ocean and that is what they are here for.

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