Hundreds protest outside Britain's first drone base

Organisers said the mass demonstration showed the strength of public feeling against the use of drones. Credit: ITV Central

Around 400 anti-war protesters descended on an RAF base today to protest the "obscenity" of using armed drones, controlled remotely from the UK, in Afghanistan.

The demonstrators marched from Lincoln to rally at nearby RAF Waddington, which assumed duty of the drone missions earlier this week.

Protesters, some carrying banners that read "No More Drones" and "Murdered by Robots", said the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to wage war from British soil raised numerous legal, ethical and moral issues.

Chris Nineham, vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said the UAVs, which were previously controlled from a US Air Force facility in Nevada, were a "barbaric form of high-tech killing".

Addressing the crowd outside Waddington, Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German said:

Chris Cole, a co-ordinator of the Drone Campaign Network, said there was an accountability issue with the weapons.

Protesters cheered calls for the international community to emulate action taken against cluster munitions by outlawing armed drones. Credit: ITV Central

"Because of their remote nature, there is no risk to any of our forces and that makes it easier to launch weapons and makes it much easier for politicians to get involved in warfare," he said.

The Ministry of Defence defended the deployment, saying the drones have "undoubtedly" helped to save the lives of military personnel and those of countless Afghan civilians.

"In all military operations everything possible is done to avoid civilian casualties and this is no less the case with RPAS (Remotely Piloted Air System) operations," an MoD spokesperson said.

Despite the protests, the Ministry of Defence has said the drones will not be used for targeted assassinations. Credit: ITV Central

Officials also stressed that Reaper drones are primarily operated in Afghanistan in a surveillance and reconnaissance role.