Washington: Spurred by runaway success of
drones in Afghanistan, US is setting up an array of secret
killer unmanned spy plane bases in Africa, Middle East and
Indian Ocean to chase al Qaeda targets and confront pirates.
The move comes as Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and top
US military officials have predicted that remnants of the
al Qaeda may be planning to shift bases out of the South Asia
following unprecedented American pressure which has already
led to the killing of their top leader Osama bin Laden in May.
Fleets of `hunter-killers` drones - capable of firing
hellfire missiles and satellite guided bombs - have already
been based on the Indian Ocean island of Seychelles and in
Ethiopia to form a ring round Yemen and Somalia, The
Washington Post reported.
"The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a
reflection of the growing alarm with which US officials view
the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia,
even as al Qaeda`s core leadership in Pakistan has been
weakened by US counter-terrorism operations," it said.
Another installations is being established in Ethiopia, a
US ally in the fight against al Shabab, the Somali militant
group that controls much of that country, the paper said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, 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.
"US officials say they are concerned that al Qaeda
under pressure from US operations in Pakistan is moving to
expand operations through its affiliates in East Africa, and
that a new charismatic militant leader could emerge there,"
The Journal reported.