The U.S. military has confirmed it runs "broad ranging" intelligence operations in Africa, though it stopped short of verifying a report that it has set up small air bases across the continent to keep watch on terrorist groups.
A statement issued Friday said the U.S. military "routinely" works with African partner nations to "counter" those who threaten regional security and stability in Africa.
The U.S. military said it employs its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in Africa "based on security threats of mutual concern."
The Washington Post newspaper reported Thursday that the U.S. military has set up about a dozen air bases in Africa to conduct surveillance, in countries that include Burkina Faso, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles.
The paper said the 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.
Instead of drones, The Post says the surveillance is conducted by small planes - usually single-engine PC-12s with only a pilot aboard. The report says the 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, has denied there are U.S. air bases in Kenya, or that U.S. forces are using Kenyan airspace.
According to The Post, U.S. military Special Operations forces supervise the surveillance, but the program relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.
The Washington Post previously reported that the U.S. has a secret program in east Africa and the Arabian peninsula that uses drone airplanes to watch militants in Somalia and Yemen.
The newspaper said its latest report was based on unnamed U.S. military and government officials, African officials, U.S. government contracting documents, unclassified military reports and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.