Tunisian Defence Minister denies hosting US drones for Libya operations

Tunisian Defence Minister Farhat Horchani delivering a speech during the opening of The Fourth Arab Forum on Asset Recovery "AFAR ", in the Tunisian city of Hammamet on December 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Fethi Belaid)
Tunisian Defence Minister Farhat Horchani delivering a speech during the opening of The Fourth Arab Forum on Asset Recovery “AFAR “, in the Tunisian city of Hammamet on December 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Fethi Belaid)

Tunisia denied Thursday a US news report that said it had allowed the US troops to operate unmanned planes from its territory for missions in neighbouring Libya against IS.

“As part of Tunisian-US bilateral cooperation, we have acquired drones to train our military personnel to use this technology and to control out southeastern border with Libya and detect any suspicious movement” there, a defence ministry spokesman said, Al-Arabia.

But “Tunisian soil has never been and never will be used to strike targets in Libya. The drones are used by Tunisians and no one else,” Belhassen Oueslati added.

The Washington Post on Wednesday reported that the Pentagon had “secretly expanded its global network of drone bases to North Africa, deploying unmanned aircraft and US military personnel to a facility in Tunisia to conduct spy missions in neighbouring Libya”.

The “drones began flying out of the Tunisian base in late June” and “played a key role in an extended US air offensive against an IS stronghold” in Libya, the newspaper said.

Tunisia’s Defence Minister Farhat Horchani told the Mosaique FM radio station on Thursday: “We were one of the few first countries to oppose a foreign military intervention in Libya.”

“We don’t — and won’t — have a foreign military base in Tunisia,” he said.

An AFRICOM spokesman did not deny that US drones had taken off from Tunisia but said: “There are no US bases in Tunisia.”

“There are US service members working with the Tunisian security forces for counter terrorism and they are sharing intelligence from various sources, to include unarmed aerial platforms,” Colonel Mark R. Cheadle said, According to Al-Arabia.

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