Djibouti : Grounds US military flights, suspends joint drill

Djibouti has ordered the grounding of US military flights and put on hold an ongoing air operation off its coast, following a string of aviation accidents this week.

The Djiboutian government sent the US a diplomatic notice requesting that all flying operations be halted after two separate incidents involving US military aircraft occurred on Tuesday, US Naval Forces Central Command said Thursday.

As a result, the training exercise known as Alligator Dagger was halted off the coast of Djibouti.

The first mishap occurred at Djibouti International Airport when an AV-8B Harrier jet crashed. The pilot, who ejected, survived the crash. Later on the same day, a Marine CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter suffered “structural damage” while landing at Djibouti’s Arta Beach.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said there was no apparent linkage between any of the accidents.

“We regret each one. We’ll look at them carefully. I’m certainly not prepared to say that it’s a wave of mishaps or some form of crisis,” he said.

The crashes in the East African country came at the same time as several accidents within the United States, including an F-16 crash near Las Vegas on Wednesday, which killed the pilot.

Four Marines also died in a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crash in Southern California on Tuesday.

Djibouti, which is home to the only permanent US military base in Africa, hosts about 4,000 US troops. The tiny African nation has become a strategic area for Washington due to its vicinity to Somalia and Yemen, where the Pentagon has been conducting operations. The recent grounding of US flights in Djibouti would affect the US operations in both of those countries.

Citing US officials, CNN wrote that the US military and the State Department were in talks with the government of Djibouti to get approval for flights on a case-by-case basis.

By Africafrique and agencies

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