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

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.


Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

Updated 8 min 2 sec ago

Japan joins Malaysia in Olympics race to train 1,000 halal chefs for 2020 summer Games

  • Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry
  • The MFS partnership with Malaysia is expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games

KUALA LUMPUR: Olympics host Japan is going for gold in a race against time to train 1,000 chefs in halal food preparation for the summer 2020 Games.
With 5 million Muslim visitors from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia expected to descend on Tokyo for the sporting spectacular, which takes place between July and September, Japan has teamed up with Malaysia to introduce Muslim-friendly standards (MFS) for the Japanese food industry.
“Most Muslim tourists would want to try Japanese food,” said Keith Wong, CEO of Acrosx Malaysia, which has been appointed to the halal expert training committee of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to help develop halal versions of Japanese dishes.
Demand for halal Japanese food was booming and Wong told Arab News: “Tempura is popular among Middle Easterners and in South Asia, while ramen and unagi (eels) are popular among Muslims from Southeast Asia. Sashimi and sushi are very popular among all Muslims.”
He pointed out that MFS were needed because the number of halal restaurants in Japan was currently insufficient to cater for all visitor preferences during the Olympics.
The Japanese government has partnered with Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation to have more than 1,000 chefs trained in preparing halal food and become MFS-certified.
“We are aiming to train 500 restaurants for ‘Muslim-friendly’ certification for the Olympics,” Wong said, adding that MFS were even stricter than general halal standards.
Restaurants adopting MFS would be required to have a separate halal kitchen and provide different utensils for Muslim customers.
The Japanese chefs and restaurant operators taking part in the training will learn about the history of Islam, halal food storage and cooking methods.
The global halal industry is estimated to be worth around $2 trillion, and the Japanese see Muslim travelers as being more valuable than Chinese tourists, Wong said. “Chinese travelers to Japan would usually spend money on high-end, luxury goods. While Muslim travelers, with their friends and family, would spend money on food, lodgings and tourism.”
He noted that the MFS partnership with Malaysia was expected to extend beyond the 2020 Olympic Games.
“We will be aiming for the World Expo 2025 in Osaka,” he said, adding that Japan may become a global and high-quality player in the halal industry.