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Flights grounded at U.S. base crucial to anti-terror fight

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Flights grounded at U.S. base crucial to anti-terror fight

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Bullit Marquez
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The government of Djibouti grounded all U.S. military flights Wednesday at a base crucial to the U.S. fight against terror in Yemen and Somalia after two aircraft mishaps in as many days, according to three U.S. defense officials.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed as it was taking off at the African nation's Ambouli International Airport. The pilot ejected and is in stable condition at Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. Naval Expeditionary Base there.

On Wednesday, a CH-53 helicopter suffered structural damage during a landing in Arta Beach. No one was injured, according to Cmdr. Bill Urban, spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.

A U.S. Marine CH-53 helicopter dislodges U.S. and Philippine marines during a live-fire exercise called Phiblex 2013 in the northern Philippines on Oct. 16, 2012.
A U.S. Marine CH-53 helicopter dislodges U.S. and Philippine marines during a live-fire exercise called Phiblex 2013 in the northern Philippines on Oct. 16, 2012. Bullit Marquez

Both aircraft were participating in Alligator Dagger, an annual amphibious exercise in the region.

The U.S. has about 4,000 troops stationed at Camp Lemonnier, which serves as a base for U.S. operations against jihadis in Somalia and Yemen. Djibouti is on the Horn of Africa across the Gulf of Aden from southwestern Yemen.

During this flight suspension U.S. military aircraft cannot operate from either the commercial airport or from the U.S. military base.

The officials could not say how long the aircraft would be grounded or what impact it is having on U.S. military operations in the region.