The Air Force has been secretly flying armed Reaper drones on counter-terrorism missions from a remote civilian airport in southern Ethi­o­pia as part of a rapidly expanding US-led proxy war against an al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa, US military officials said.
The Air Force has invested millions of dollars to upgrade an airfield in Arba Minch, Ethi­o­pia, where it has built a small annex to house a fleet of drones that can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.
The Reapers began flying missions earlier this year over neighbouring Somalia, where the US and its allies in the region have been targeting al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group connected to al-Qaeda.
Mindful of the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” debacle in which two US military choppers were shot down in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and 18 Americans killed. The Washington Post reported last month that the Obama administration is building a constellation of secret drone bases in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.
(In an exclusive partnership with The Washington Post)