Niger okays armed flights of US drones

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WASHINGTON – A U.S. official says the Pentagon has received permission from the government of Niger to begin flying armed drones from the capital, Niamey.

The arrangement reflects an expanding U.S. military campaign against extremists in Africa and is based on a recently signed government-to-government memorandum of understanding.

The U.S. official says armed drone flights could begin as early as next week or at least by the end of December. The arrangement limits the drones to defensive missions. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The drones eventually are to be moved to a desert base under construction near Agadez. That base is expected to become operational by mid- to late-2018.

The U.S. has approximately 800 troops in Niger.

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