Chinese nationals fired lasers near a military base in East Africa and hit U.S. military aircraft pilots, according to the Pentagon. Dana White, Pentagon Press Secretary, said the U.S. government made diplomatic protests to the Chinese government over several injured pilots due to recent laser firings near China's overseas military base in Djibouti.
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"These are very serious incidents. There have been two minor injuries. This activity poses a threat to our airmen," White said. "We have formally demarched the Chinese government, and we've requested that the Chinese investigate these incidents." White also said the number of incidents is "more than two but less than ten" and they occurred in recent weeks. She added that the Pentagon is confident that Chinese nationals were behind the laser firings but not say exactly how she knew or what the motives were for the attacks.
"I believe there have been cases where this has happened previously," she said. "But what this started was these last few weeks we decided to become very serious about it, and we have demarched the Chinese, and we've asked for the investigation." A Chinese military expert disputed the claims that Chinese nationals were behind the laser attacks calling them "groundless." China's government insists the base is merely a logistics hub for anti-piracy operations and to provide aid to China's international infrastructure project called Belt and Road Initiative.
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The base in Djibouti was China's first overseas base and it opened last year, the country plans on deploying around 400 troops there. The incident is similar to a laser attack by a Russian merchant ship that was following a Navy missile submarine when a Canadian surveillance helicopter investigated they Russians used a laser attack directed at the pilot. The whole situation was covered up by the administration of President Bill Clinton.
A recent notice from the Federal Aviation Administration warned airmen "that there have been multiple lazing events involving a high power laser" near the Chinese military base. "Use extreme caution when transiting near this area," the notice states. "If a laser is seen in or near Djibouti, notify immediately tower…" One lazing incident left aircrew members aboard a C-130 transport plane to suffer minor eye injuries after what it described as "military-grade laser beams" were fired from the base.
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