Tunisia denies giving US base to attack Libya

Tunisia denies giving US base to attack Libya
Tunisian authorities have rubbished claims that Washington is using its territory to launch drones against Islamic State militants in Sirte.
2 min read
27 October, 2016
Tunisia has responded to claims it provided a base for US forces [Anadolu]
Tunisia has denied reports it allowed the US to launch drones from its territory for its mission against the Islamic State group in Libya.

A report by The Washington Post claimed 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 Islamic State stronghold" in Libya, the newspaper said.

The reports have forced Tunisia to deny claims the US using it as a base for strikes.

"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, defence ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati told AFP.

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," he said.

Since August 1, the US has carried out 351 airstrikes in Libya in support of loyalist forces fighting to retake the coastal city of Sirte from IS, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said on Thursday.

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.

Tunisia "requested additional military equipment and training from Washington after deadly militant attacks last year in Tunisia and the US has provided more than $250 million in security assistance".