Saturday, 21 April, 2018

US Defense Secretary Mattis visits strategic Djibouti

James Mattis urges France to continue the fight against terror in Africa as he visits strategic Djibouti US Defense Secretary Mattis visits strategic Djibouti
Ron Matthews | 27 April, 2017, 10:43

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis expressed concerns about the resurgence of Somali piracy during a visit to the American military base in Djibouti.

"We look for our partners in that part of the continent to really carry the fight there", General Thomas Waldhauser, commander of USA forces in Africa, told a press conference with Mattis.

The number of attacks peaked in 2011 before dropping to zero, mainly as a result of naval patrols and improved security measures by shipping companies.

This month has seen a new rash of attacks, with two ships captured and a third rescued by Indian and Chinese forces after the crew radioed for help and locked themselves in a safe room.

Somali pirates hijacked a Comoros-flagged vessel carrying fuel in early March, the first time that pirates had taken control of a commercial ship in the region since 2012.

USA officials are reluctant to label a recent spike in piracy off the waters of Somalia as a trend.

More than 20 million people from Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen are in danger of dying from starvation within the next six months, according to the U.N. World Food Program.

Mr Mattis' trip also comes amid a recent surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia. It also hosts Japanese and French bases.

Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is on the route to the Suez Canal.

The U.S. base of 4,000 troops is located just miles from a Chinese base, still under construction, Reuters reported.

Mattis' visit to the base comes as the United States has been increasing pressure on militant groups such as al Shabaab in the region.

Camp Lemonnier, home to some 4,000 U.S. soldiers and contractors, is vital to United States military operations in Somalia against militant groups like Al-Shabaab, and also provides support for USA operations in Yemen, where special forces regularly carry out drone strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The group continues to carry out deadly bombings despite losing much of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the government in Somalia.

The U.S. has a fleet of fighter, bomber, transport, surveillance and refueling aircraft at Qatar's al-Udeid air base, which also is home to an operations center that coordinates U.S. air missions throughout the Mideast and in Afghanistan.

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