US exits key drone operations base in Pakistan: Report
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American military personnel have left the Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan, which is said to be a key hub for US drone operations in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas, according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official.
Drones are said to take off from the Shamsi Air Base, where they are refueled for operations against Islamic militants, according to CNN reports.
The development comes amid a public furore over recent US drone attacks that have killed a number of civilians.
A Pakistani intelligence source said that a suspected drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region killed 25 people, including eight civilians and 17 militants, on Friday. This came after another drone attack on March 17, which killed 44 people, most of them civilians.
However, a US official disputed the Pakistani contention that civilians died in Friday's drone strike, saying: "There is no evidence to support that claim whatsoever."
The operation of the base - not publicly acknowledged by the American government - has always been presumed to have occurred with tacit Pakistani military consent said the report, adding that it is not clear from the Pakistani officials when the presence at the base began or when it ended.
While the senior Pakistani intelligence official confirmed that US military personnel were no longer operating out of the base, he could not say whether they had left voluntarily or at the request of the Pakistan government.
Another senior Pakistani intelligence official corroborated on the condition of anonymity that the Americans had been using the Shamsi Air Base as a center of operations for launching drone strikes, but was not able to confirm whether they had left.
However, a US military official said on the condition of anonymity: "There are no US forces at Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan," but he did not respond to queries as to whether American personnel had been based there in the past.
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