- Title: Somali police get first drones to combat Islamist bombings
- Date: 26th May 2017
- Summary: MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (MAY 25, 2017) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER U.S INTELLIGENCE SPECIALIST, BRETT VELICOVICH, SAYING: "Some of the things that this drones will be able to do is to conduct surveillance, be able to actually fly over top of these locations where this IEDs (improvised explosive devices) or bombing attacks have occurred and be able to take photos from the air to do investigations for the police, to do things like look out for any potential ... other Shabaab (al Shabaab, al Qaeda-linked Islamists militant group) members who may be on rooftops or maybe there to look at hitting at first responders that are responding." MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (MAY 25, 2017) (REUTERS) SOMALI POLICEMAN CONTROLLING DRONE
- Embargoed: 9th June 2017 11:58
- Keywords: al Shabaab killing civilians bombing in Mogadishu using drones to fight Islamist insurgents training Somali police
- Location: MOGADISHU, SOMALIA
- City: MOGADISHU, SOMALIA
- Country: Somalia
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,International/National Security
- Reuters ID: LVA0056IH4G93
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL
After nearly three decades of civil war, Somalia is facing its most deadly threat: al Qaeda-linked Islamist insurgents that are launching increasingly complicated and deadly bomb attacks.
Now a former U.S. intelligence specialist is donating five drones to the police force to help them combat the problem. The gift comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is pushing U.S. troops to become more active in the region. A U.S. Navy Seal was killed in Somalia this month, the first combat death there since 1993.
The Somalis received five drones, some of which have infra-red or night vision capabilities, from Brett Velicovich, whose service with the U.S. military features in a "Drone Warrior", a book to be published next month. His life story is also being developed as a movie by Paramount Pictures.
The al Shabaab insurgents have been steadily losing control of cities and towns in the Horn of Africa nation since withdrawing from the capital in 2011. But they are hitting back with increasingly large and complex bombings.
Bombs killed at least 723 people and wounded 1,116 in Somalia last year, according to Nairobi-based think-tank Sahan Research, up from 193 dead and 442 wounded in 2015.
Increasingly, al Shabaab is using several bombs or a combination of bombs and gunmen to attack security forces who respond.
So Bancroft, a Washington-based organisation contracted by the U.S. State Department to train the Somali police, brought Velicovich to Mogadishu to show officers how to use drones in examining potential threats or blast sites.
The drones are made by China's DJI company and are a combination of the commercially-available Mavic and Inspire models. The biggest has a range of up to 7 km (four miles).
One example that police cited was when gunmen ambushed officers responding to a car bomb on Mogadishu's Lido beachfront last year. Police were unable to find the last attacker, holed up in a restaurant, for several hours. A drone might have found him in minutes, Velicovich said.
The gift follows a deal in London earlier this month between the Somali government and its Western allies to beef up the security forces and try to integrate regional militias.
But huge problems face new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, elected by parliamentarians in February. The Somali security forces have been crippled by years of corruption.
High-ranking officers stuffed the payrolls with names of their relatives and sold weapons and food intended for the rank-and-file. Both the police and military have often gone for months without pay, encouraging them to extort money from angry civilians.
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