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Ramstein 'heart' of US drone program

April 18, 2015

The Ramstein airbase in Germany has been serving as the center of the US' drone strikes in Africa and the Middle East, according to reports by Der Spiegel and The Intercept. The German government is aware of the program.

US-Airbase in Ramstein
Image: dapd

The Ramstein airbase, in Germany's southwestern Rhineland Palatinate state, was being used as a "tell-tale" heart for US drone strikes in Africa and the Middle East, Der Spiegel and The Intercept reported on Saturday.

The news organizations, which reported the story after receiving information from an anonymous source, said that the German government was aware of Washington's intentions.

According to the news articles, the US administration regularly sent out drones to hit targets suspected of terrorism. These targets were situated in Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"Signals are transmitted from Ramstein, which tell the drones what they should do," Der Spiegel reported a US official as saying, on condition of anonymity. The magazine also referred to documents which could put the German government under pressure, especially since Berlin had always argued that it had "no confirmed knowledge" on the central role of Ramstein in the controversial drone attacks by the US.

Berlin shirks responsibility

These documents suggested that the US Department of the Army informed the German Ministry of Defense that it was installing a relay station for drones in Ramstein in November 2011. There was no consensus among German officials on how they should react to this information. An internal note even suggested that the "Chancellor's office and the Defense Ministry were planning to wait out the pressure from the parliament and the general public."

News about Ramstein being used as a coordination hub for US drone attacks began pouring in nearly two years ago. In 2014, German media reported that the airbase was receiving live pictures of the drone attacks, which were analyzed and compared with information from intelligence agencies.

US President Barack Obama, however, addressed the issue in Berlin in 2013, saying, "We do not use Germany as a launching point for unmanned drones… as part of our counterterrorism activities."

Unmanned drone aircraft have been part of the US' military arsenal for many years. The planes have been used extensively in areas believed to be serving as hideouts for terrorists, but have resulted in the death of thousands of civilians.

mg/bw (AFP, dpa)