Ethiopia seeking Turkish drones for possible use in Tigray conflict

Ethiopia is seeking Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 armed drones for use in the Tigray region, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signed an agreement for military cooperation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a visit to Ankara in August. While the details have not been publicly disclosed, Ethiopian officials are believed to have requested drone technology as part of the deal.

The Guardian said Abiy’s Ankara visit came two months after Ethiopian military was pushed out of Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region. An Ethiopian counteroffensive in October was repelled by Tigray forces.

The Ethiopia has already used armed drones made by China and Iran, the Guardian said. However, neither of those models are as effective as the Turkish-built TB2s Ethiopia is presently seeking.

TB2 drones have been successfully deployed in Turkish military operations in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. The technology is also credited with Azerbaijani’s gains in last year’s clashes with Armenia over the over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The TB2s cost a mere $1-2 million per unit, about a tenth of their U.S.-made equivalents, the Guardian said.

Neither the Turkish or Ethiopian governments have commented publicly on the issue of drone sales, but Tigrayan forces claim to have found a fragment from a Turkish-made laser-guided bomb in the region.

Ankara has exported the TB2 to a growing number of countries in recent months, raising concerns that authoritarian regimes are increasingly gaining access to the technology.

“What we are seeing is the consequences of the international community not wanting to deal with drone proliferation,” Chris Cole, a member of the UK-based NGO Drone Wars, told the Guardian.

“Drones are heating up conflicts in the region because pilotless munitions lower the threshold for war,” he added. “A country might be condemned for supplying boots on the ground to intervene in a conflict, but there is far less complaint if instead they are supplying drones.”
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