Skip to main content

U.S. to base surveillance drones in Niger, ambassador says

By Jamie Crawford and Chris Lawrence, CNN
February 7, 2013 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Niger says it's agreed to let U.S. drones operate from its territory
  • Niger is near Mali, where French troops joined the fight against Islamic rebels
  • U.S. official says intelligence-gathering in that part of Africa is a challenge

Washington (CNN) -- The United States has signed a deal with the central Africa nation of Niger that allows deployment of surveillance drones to keep tabs on Islamic militants in the region, officials from both countries said Tuesday.

Niger is next door to Mali, where France joined the fight against Islamic rebels earlier this month

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the role of the U.S. military in Niger "has not yet been defined" -- but Niger's ambassador to the United States, Maman Sidikou, told CNN that his government has agreed to let U.S. drones operate from its territory.

Sidikou said his understanding of the agreement is the drones will be unarmed and used for surveillance to monitor extremist movements. He refused to discuss where in the country the drones would be based or when they will be operational.

Questions on Iran claim of hacked drone
Targeting American terrorists overseas
Man's son and grandson killed by drones

Niger lies to the east of Mali, where French troops and warplanes are fighting alongside government troops to push back Islamist fighters who seized much of the former French colony in 2012.

The rebels took advantage of the chaos that followed a revolt by Touareg separatists and a military coup, and banned music, smoking, drinking and watching televised sports in the territories under their control.

Washington is backing its NATO ally by sharing intelligence, flying French troops to neighboring countries and refueling French jets.

Mali is the home of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African offshoot of the terrorist movement. The group has been connected to the recent assault on the natural gas facility in Algiers and the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Little said the group does not pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, but that could change.

"I'm unaware of any specific or credible information at this time that points to an AQIM threat against the homeland, but, again, I'm not ruling it out," he said. "We take al Qaeda, wherever they are, very seriously. We are not going to rest on our laurels until we find that that kind of specific and credible information."

A U.S. official said that intelligence-gathering in that part of Africa is a challenge. The United States has a drone base in Djibouti, at the southern tip of the Red Sea -- on the opposite side of the continent from Mali.

"Djibouti is a long way from Bamako, and there's certainly a growing need for intelligence-gathering," the official said.

While not confirming the reports about establishing a drone base, the official noted that if one was created, the operation would need infrastructure, security and support.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
This ocean drone can survive typhoons and collect data from the center of the storm.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
Forget selfies. Those are so 2013.
June 11, 2014 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Beyond military surveillance and warfare, drones have proven themselves useful in a number of ways.
June 4, 2014 -- Updated 2109 GMT (0509 HKT)
It's almost entirely illegal to use drones for money-making purposes in the United States. But a little Hollywood magic could change that.
May 22, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
A bird's eye camera sweeps over the green fields of Ireland, flies over the towering Cliffs of Moher and pans the ocean hundreds of feet below.
January 24, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
Marque Cornblatt's interest in drones began with a bit of playful drone-on-drone violence.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 2257 GMT (0657 HKT)
drones amazon
Imaginations everywhere have been stoked since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced his company plans to start offering 30-minute deliveries via drone-like "octocopters."
February 3, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
Ice fishers in Minnesota are reeling from a recent FAA decision prohibiting beer delivery by drone.
May 14, 2014 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Drones are everywhere. They are our present and our future, especially concerning warfare, Peter Bergen writes.
March 28, 2014 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
Two thirds of the world population does not have Internet access. Before Facebook can sign up the rest of world it needs to get them online.
November 18, 2013 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Apart from what they do for the military; drones have already proven themselves capable sheep herders, delivery boys, tour guides, filmmakers, archaeologists, and -- possibly -- spies.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
The evolution of drones continues.
November 20, 2013 -- Updated 1347 GMT (2147 HKT)
Flying robot Skycall guides a student around MIT.
It's your first day at university and you've got 15 minutes to get to room 9-209. Easy, right?
July 19, 2013 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Deer Trail, a small Colorado town, is considering a measure that would allow its residents to hunt for federal drones and shoot them down.
November 12, 2013 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
The Federal Aviation Administration's "Road Map" to integrate drones into civilian airspace by 2015 has provoked strong reactions from privacy advocates.
November 6, 2013 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
"Live every week like it's Shark Week." Those immortal words come not from the Discovery Channel's marketing department but from Tracy Morgan on "30 Rock."
August 6, 2013 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Click through our gallery to learn more about the varied appearances of drones.
May 23, 2013 -- Updated 0116 GMT (0916 HKT)
Catch up on everything you need to know about drones.
July 12, 2012 -- Updated 1220 GMT (2020 HKT)
Drone sixton-a
Drones are currently a growth industry in the aviation sector, with scores of new companies competing for a slice of the market.
February 8, 2013 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Here are some key facts about the U.S. drone program, including how and when they are used, and where.
February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)
The use of drones to carry out military strikes is controversial, to say the least.
ADVERTISEMENT