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WASHINGTON (AP) — Unmanned aerial drones similar to ones used in the war on Iraq could be patrolling the U.S. border by the end of the year to help stem illegal immigration and increase security, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Thursday.

"We are very serious in looking at UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) for both border applications, land and sea," Ridge told the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.

Predators and other remote-controlled aircraft can watch over a potential target and fly for hundreds of miles with cameras, sensors, communications equipment or missiles.

Several Western congressmen have endorsed the use of the unmanned vehicles over the U.S.-Mexico border. Support has grown for the unmanned aircraft since their success during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Spy cameras aboard a drone allowed U.S. commanders to watch the capture of Palestinian hijacking suspect Abul Abbas and oversee the rescue of Army prisoner-of-war Pfc. Jessica Lynch. They also foiled an Iraqi ambush on U.S. and British troops. In November, an unmanned Predator drone killed suspected al-Qaida operatives in Yemen.

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