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Report: US Expands Air Surveillance Across Africa

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The Washington Post reports the U.S. military has set up small air bases across Africa to conduct surveillance of terrorist groups.

The newspaper, quoting U.S. and African officials, says about a dozen bases have been set up since 2007 in a number of countries, including Burkina Faso, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles.

The Post reports that instead of drones, the surveillance program uses single-engine PC-12s flown by pilots. It says the small, unarmed planes are equipped to record video, track infrared heat patterns, and catch radio and cellphone signals.

A spokesman for the Kenyan Defense Forces, Colonel Cyrus Oguna, denied that there are U.S. air bases in Kenya.

"As far as we are concerned, U.S. is not using any Kenyan air space or any bases from where they can be able to launch observation vessels," said Oguna. "However, I know that we do have bilateral arrangements in terms of sharing information and intelligence to fight terror."

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The Post says the surveillance is overseen by the U.S. military's Special Operations forces but relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.

Targets of the surveillance include al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia, Yemen, and Africa's Sahel region, and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa.

U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of the threat to regional stability presented by such groups and others like Nigeria's Boko Haram.

The Post previously reported that the U.S. has a secret drone program in east Africa and the Arabian peninsula to watch militants in Somalia and Yemen.

The Post based its latest report on unnamed U.S. military and government officials, African officials, U.S. government contracting documents, unclassified military reports, and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Article by VOA News