WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Colombia has used U.S. drones since 2006 for surveillance of leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers, the Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
The 2006 cable by William Wood, then U.S. ambassador in Bogota, described the use of drones by the Colombian military in filming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the cocaine trade.
Wood said a batch of drones that arrived in Colombia in July 2006 gave the Colombian military a "real-time, bird's eye" view of its assaults on insurgents and drug trafficking on rivers, the Post said.
The newspaper said the drones were the ScanEagle, a small, low-cost unmanned aircraft that needs no runway because it is launched by a hydraulic catapult system.
Made by Boeing, the ScanEagle was first deployed in Iraq in 2005 for intelligence gathering. They have also been used in Afghanistan and by the U.S. Navy in counter-piracy operations.
The Post said it was not clear from the cable whether the drones were flown by U.S. military forces in Colombia or given to the Colombian armed forces as part of a multibillion-dollar military aid program.
FARC guerrillas are at their weakest in decades after the deaths of top commanders and a string of desertions prompted by government bounties and improved intelligence.
But rebels remain a potent force in some areas, helped in part by their involvement in the lucrative drug trade.
(Editing by Anthony Boadle, World Desk Americas)