Niger approves use of armed US drones: report

Niger approves use of armed US drones: report
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The government of Niger has OK'd the use of armed American drones in the country.

Reuters reported Thursday that the permission to arm U.S. drones in the country was given earlier this week, though the capability has not yet been put to use.

Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that he had asked the U.S. to begin using armed drones against jihadist groups operating on the Mali border.

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Similarly, the U.S. has been pushing to use armed drones in Niger, according to an NBC News report.

The development comes nearly two months after an ambush in Niger left four U.S. Army soldiers dead. While the U.S. began weighing arming drones in the region before the attack, the ambush increased the sense of urgency within the Trump administration to do so.

During the ambush, a request for an armed drone to provide cover for the troops was denied. That request was blocked in the approval process, which goes through the Pentagon, the State Department and the Nigerien government.

According to Reuters, the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Niger includes an 800-person force and a $100 million drone base in the city of Agadez. So far, only surveillance drones are deployed there.