Niger will allow US forces stationed in the country to arm the drones being used to track jihadists, having previously allowed their use only for surveillance, the government said Saturday.
The decision comes a month after jihadists ambushed a joint US-Niger patrol in a volatile area near the border with Mali, killing four American soldiers and four Nigerien troops.
But Defence Minister Kalla Moutari said the decision had been taken before the 4 October attack at Tongo Tongo.
“It was a negotiation that had been underway for a while. Arming the drones is an option we decided on before we learned of the tragedy at Tongo Tongo,” Moutari told state radio.
“We are dealing with very well-armed groups,” he said, and “armed drones are an appropriate and decisive response for fighting terrorism.”
Niger had been reluctant to let either the US or French troops on its soil use the drones as weapons, in part because of fears for civilian casualties.