Saturday, April 27, 2013

Demo Against UK's Use Of Armed Drones

Protesters march on RAF Waddington after it emerges that it is being used to operate drones over Afghanistan.

Anti-war protesters gather in Lincoln.
Anti-war protesters start the march in Lincoln
A MQ-9 Reaper drone. Picture: Ministry of Defence
It has been revealed that pilots at RAF Waddington are controlling the aircraft remotely during missions over Afghanistan - the first time that has been done from British soil.
Video: Drones Operated By Remote From UK
Anti-war demonstrators have marched from Lincoln to an RAF base to voice their opposition to the UK's use of armed drones in Afghanistan.
Members of the Stop The War Coalition, CND, The Drone Campaign Network and War on Want are taking part in the mass rally outside RAF Waddington.
The RAF began remotely operating its Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles deployed to Afghanistan from the Lincolnshire airbase earlier this week.
Previously operated from a US Air Force base in Nevada, the aircraft are used to support coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.
A MQ-9 Reaper drone. Picture: Ministry of Defence
Drone missions over Afghanistan from British soil began this week
The hi-tech Reaper drones are primarily used to gather intelligence on enemy activity on the ground, but they also carry 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles for precision strikes on insurgents.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the RAF said it had commenced supporting the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan ground troops with "armed intelligence and surveillance missions" remotely piloted from RAF Waddington.
The organisers of the protest march and rally are calling on the Government to abandon the use of drones, claiming they make it easier for politicians to launch military interventions, and have increased civilian casualties.
Commenting ahead of the protest, War on Want senior campaigns officer Rafeef Ziadah said: "Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians' decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.
"Now is the time to ban killer drones - before it is too late."
Reaper MQ-9 drones are controlled remotely. Picture: Ministry of Defence
Remote pilots can operate the drones and fire missiles
Chris Nineham, vice-chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, claimed drones were being used to continue the "deeply unpopular War on Terror" with no public scrutiny.
Calling for armed drones to be banned, Mr Nineham said: "They're using them to fight wars behind our backs."
The Ministry of Defence has defended its use of drones in Afghanistan, which it says have saved the lives of countless military personnel and civilians.
An MoD spokesman said: "UK Reaper aircraft are piloted by highly trained professional military pilots who adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement which apply to traditionally manned RAF aircraft."
Lincolnshire Police have held talks with the organisers of the protest to minimise disruption to the local community.
The route of the march from South Common along the A15 to the peace camp site opposite RAF Waddington will see the road closed in phases to limit inconvenience to drivers.

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