26 Sep 2011

US Reaper drones in Seychelles ‘unarmed’ says minister

The Seychelles government hits back at allegations the US is using the islands to launch drone attacks in Somalia and Yemen, insisting the aircraft are monitoring pirates not terrorists.

US drones in Seychelles 'operate unarmed' says minister. (Getty)

Jean-Paul Adam, minister for foreign affairs in the Seychelles, has denied claims the US is flying armed drones from the islands in the Indian Ocean to Somalia and Yemen, in order to target suspected terrorists.

In a statement released to Channel 4 News, he said the reports are “purely speculations based on uncited and unidentified sources” and that the agreement between America and the Seychelles is based on the drones being unarmed.

Mr Adam insisted that the unmanned Reaper aircraft based in the Seychelles are used solely for “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance purposes in the fight against piracy”.

Reaper MQ-9 drones have the capacity to carry laser-guided bombs, air-to-ground and heat-seeking missiles.

The minister’s response follows claims the US is assembling new bases for its drone fleet in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

The Washington Post, which cited US officials as its source, described a “constellation of secret drone bases” and added that the CIA is building an airstrip somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula “so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen”.

Mr Adam said the US government has never requested that the Seychelles drones carry weapons, but “any possible future request would be given serious considerations before being approved through the appropriate channels”.

He said: “In 2009 there was a real need to address the shortcomings in our fight against piracy and one of those deficiencies was in the area of surveillance and intelligence.

“There are currently two drones operating from the Seychelles which are part of ongoing co-ordinated efforts to combat piracy and other illegal activities in the Indian Ocean region.”