U.S. suspends Seychelles drone flights after crashes

VICTORIA Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:21am EDT

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VICTORIA (Reuters) - The United States has suspended drone flights over the Seychelles while it investigates a second crash in four months on the archipelago, which Washington uses as a launch base for the unmanned spy planes.

One of the remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper aircraft crash-landed last week at the main airport on the island of Mahe shortly after taking off on an unspecified mission.

The planes have carried out missions over Somalia and the Horn of Africa from the Seychelles, according to a classified U.S. diplomatic cable dated 2009.

Local officials say drones based in the archipelago also track pirates in regional waters.

"(The U.S. authorities) gave us the assurance that they will not make any new (drone) flights until the investigation into the accidents is done," Seychellois Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam said on Monday after a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus.

Mabus told reporters thorough and transparent investigations would be carried out whenever such accidents occurred.

(Reporting by George Thande; Editing by Duncan Miriri, John Stonestreet)

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