France deploys armed drones in Sahel anti-militant fight

France deploys armed drones in Sahel anti-militant fight
An US contractor checks a French armed Reaper drone before take-off at the operation Barkhane’s military base in Niamey, on December 15, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 19 December 2019

France deploys armed drones in Sahel anti-militant fight

France deploys armed drones in Sahel anti-militant fight

PARIS: France has officially deployed its first armed drones, three American-built Reapers fitted with laser-guided missiles, in its fight against a militant insurrection in Africa’s Sahel region, Defense Minister Florence Parly announced Thursday.
The drones, which have already since 2014 provided surveillance support to the French anti-militant Barkhane mission in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, will from now on also be able to strike targets, she said.
France joins a small club of countries, including the United States, Britain and Israel, that use armed, distance-piloted aircraft in combat.
The Reapers will each carry two 250-kilo (550-pound) laser-guided bombs, and are entering service after a series of operational tests carried out from the air base in the Niger capital Niamey.
“Their main missions remain surveillance and intelligence... but these can be extended to strikes,” Parly said.
“This is a new capacity, not a change in doctrine. The rules of engagement of armed drones are exactly the same as for fighter aircraft.”
France’s 4,500-strong Barkhane force is fighting a seven-year-old militant revolt in the Sahel that has seen thousands of civilians killed, and hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes.
French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Niger at the weekend to pay homage to 71 soldiers from the West African country who were killed in a militant attack this month.
France will also host a summit on January 12 in the southwestern town of Pau on the ongoing conflict, to be attended by the presidents of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
“The point is that when you are monitoring an area, if you identify enemies and there is an urgent need to deal with that target, the armed drone will be able to do it,” French air force chief of staff Philippe Lavigne told AFP in Niamey on Sunday.
The drones have a flight range of 20 hours, at an altitude of 7,000 to 13,000 meters (4.3 to eight miles).
The French army has five of the drones in total, with two of them on the mainland for training. It will receive six more next year, equipped with GPS-guided missiles. The drone fleet is set to increase to 12 in 2025 and 24 by 2030.
The use of armed drones is controversial: the United States has been criticized for deploying them in campaigns in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Rights groups say the distance-piloted weapons dehumanize warfare.


Bomb kills two policemen in Afghan capital

Bomb kills two policemen in Afghan capital
Updated 16 January 2021

Bomb kills two policemen in Afghan capital

Bomb kills two policemen in Afghan capital
  • Two policemen were killed and one wounded
  • The two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda items of the talks

KABUL: A roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle in the Afghan capital killed two policemen Saturday, officials said, as violence continues unabated in Afghanistan despite peace talks between the Taliban and government.
The vehicle carrying the policemen was struck by the bomb in the center of the capital on the road to the prestigious Kabul University, police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said.
Two policemen were killed and one wounded, Faramarz said.
Violence has surged across the country in recent months, especially in Kabul which is also rocked by a new trend of targeted killings that has sown fear in the city.
The bloodshed comes even as the Taliban and government negotiators engage in peace talks to end the nearly two decade war in the country.
The two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda items of the talks.