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US military escalating presence in Niger, drone base being set-up

President Barack Obama told Congress Friday that about 100 US soldiers were sent to Niger to help French troops fight militants in Mali.

US niger troopsEnlarge
The US has sent about 100 soldiers to Niger to help set-up a drone base and help intelligence collection to counter Al Qaeda-linked militants in the region. (Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama told Congress Friday that about 100 US soldiers were sent to Niger to help French troops fight militants in Mali.

The move is part of a growing presence of the US military in the region that has seen an increase in Islamic militancy over the last year.

In a letter to Congress, Obama said that the soldiers would be tasked with intelligence collection, reported the Washington Post.

The US military are armed with “weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security,” Obama said in the letter, reported RT.

Forty US soldiers arrived in Niger on Wednesday the letter said, pushing US troop numbers in the country to approximately 100.

Obama wrote that the move was to further US national security.

The US recently signed a deal with the government of Niger to establish a unarmed drone base in the country to battle Al Qaeda militants in the region.

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The Guardian said the agreement could pave the way for armed drones in the future.

Over the summer, northern Mali was captured by Al Qaeda-linked militants that imposed harsh Sharia law and threatened to take over the country.

French troops have succeeded in pushing back the militants from key northern cities with help from several West African armies and US intelligence support.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/130222/us-military-escalating-presence-niger-drone-base-being-set