Benghazi airspace closed for several hours to enable U.S. drone patrols

As attacks on U.S. embassies around the region proliferate, President Obama is under increasing domestic political pressure to make some kind of demonstration of American strength. He’s in serious jeopardy of following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton and authorizing a drone strike that “brings justice” to the killers of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Even if — unlike for Clinton — this time around the targeting happens to be accurate, the use of missiles to expedite a legal process will do no more than reinforce the perception that Americans always believe, might is right.

And therein lies Obama’s dilemma: he’s campaigning to win votes from Americans many of whom have a quasi-religious conviction in the righteousness of American power, and yet his actions are likely to have an immediate impact on many more millions of non-Americans who, for good reason, think that the United States has only one tool for engaging with the world: the use of military force.

Can Obama resist the temptation to use drone missiles for the sake of winning a few votes? We’ll see.

The Libya Herald reports: The airspace over Benghazi was closed for several hours this morning, reportedly to enable unmanned aerial drones to patrol overhead.

The manager of Benghazi’s Benina International Airport told reporters earlier today that the airspace was closed shortly after midnight for security reasons.

“Benghazi airspace has been closed since 00:30 GMT for routine security checks” Taba Mohammed said, without elaborating further. The airspace is said to have reopened around 12:15.

There have been reports that flights were grounded as part of an operation to prevent suspects involved in Tuesday’s fatal attacks on the US consulate from using the airport as an escape route.

However, a UK-based risk and intelligence company has confirmed to the Libya Herald that it believes the primary purpose of the closure was to enable patrols by American drone aircraft.

“We believe our intelligence is accuarate”, said Cassie Blombaum, an intelligence analyst at the Inkerman Group.

“We have multiple sources, including video footage of Libyans actually spotting the drones”.

Drones were reported to have been deployed over Libya following Tuesday’s attacks, which resulted in the death of the American ambassador together with three of his staff, but Blombaum says that the surveillance aircraft have likely been operating in the country over a much longer period. [Continue reading…]

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