A United States official says his government has shut down its drone operation base in southern Ethiopia.

U.S. Embassy Spokesman in Ethiopia David Kennedy told The Associated Press by email that a decision has been reached that the facilities in Arba Minch, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Addis Ababa, are no longer necessary.

Ethiopian media reported about the base when it was set up in 2011 but the U.S. has never publicly confirmed the existence of the base. A security expert in Addis Ababa said the base was used to attack Islamic extremists in Somalia.

Ethiopia is a staunch U.S. ally in East Africa and has sent hundreds of troops to Somalia to counter the Islamic extremist rebel group, al-Shabab.