US troops in Niger to set up drone base

WASHINGTON (AP) — About 100 American troops have been deployed to the African nation of Niger (nee-ZHEHR').

A U.S. defense official says they'll be setting up a drone base for surveillance missions.

President Barack Obama announced the deployment Friday in a letter to Congress. He says the forces "will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region."

French troops have been fighting Islamic militants in Mali, which neighbors Niger.

The defense official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the project.

The drones at the Niger base will be unarmed and used for surveillance, not airstrikes.

Obama says the U.S. forces have been deployed with the consent of Niger's government and with weapons "for their own force protection and security."

Africa is increasingly a focus of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.