US military grounds aircraft in Djibouti after successive accidents

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Saturday April 7, 2018

The US military has halted air operations in Djibouti – at the request of the African nation’s government – following two accidents involving military aircraft.

Djibouti is one of the United States’ most critical strategic locations in the fight against terrorism in Africa and the Middle East but US air operations are now on hold. This comes after two US military aircraft were involved in separate incidents on Tuesday, including a jet crash at Djibouti’s international airport.

US military suspends air operations

“US air operations in Djibouti are on hold and US Naval Forces Central Command has cancelled the remainder of exercise Alligator Dagger in response to two separate aviation incidents in Djibouti,” the US military said in a statement on Thursday.

On Tuesday, a US Marine Corps Harrier jet crashed at Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport. The pilot managed to eject from the aircraft and was treated at a medical facility with sources saying he has since been released. Later the same day, a Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter suffered “structural damage” during a landing at Arta Beach. None of the helicopter’s crew was injured in the landing, according to officials, two civilians were reportedly injured by debris from the aircraft’s rotor wash.

US Navy investigators say they haven’t been granted access to the alleged victims by local police.
Djibouti asks US to halt operations

Following Tuesday’s double incidents, the Djibouti government sent the US a diplomatic notice requesting that all flying operated be suspended. The US military has complied, cancelling the military exercise both aircraft were involved in.

US officials say both incidents are currently under a joint investigation while they’re also working with the Djibouti government to get approval for flights on a case-by-case basis. The US military base Camp Lemonnier is vital to the country’s support of operations in Somalia, Yemen and other locations in Africa and the Middle East.

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