Three of the world's most deadly terrorist groups, Boko Haram, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda, are currently working together at training camps in the Sahara Desert in Mauritania to indoctrinate hundreds of recruits from Western countries to carry out violent jihad.
Veryan Khan, editorial director for the Florida-based Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, which tracks international terrorism and had a source on the ground in Mauritania, recently told Fox News that the three notoriously violent groups all have links to two camps in the remote region which lies close to Nigeria, where Boko Haram is based.
"The situation in Mauritania is a powder keg very few people are talking about," Khan said.
Even more disturbing is the number of Western citizens who have joined the training camps: a reported 80 trainees from the United States, Canada and other parts of Europe are currently training for terrorist attacks intended to expand a caliphate, or an Islamic State, across North and West Africa.
"The fear of returning foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq is high, but Mauritania-trained fighters are not even on anyone's radar," explained Khan. "This is not a travel destination. The only reason to be there from a Western country is to train for terrorism," she added.
Khan also told the news source that the camp is led by five powerful jihadist leaders, who were imprisoned in the Nouakchott Central Prison in the Mauritanian capital, but released following a recent prison riot in which two guards were taken hostage and threatened along with their family members with being executed. Following their release, the terrorists reportedly traveled from Nouakchott to join the Al-Qaeda training camps.
"The situation was resolved following negotiations with the public prosecutor and Chief of the National Guards," Khan said. "The detainees were released on Feb. 23 and are free to pursue their jihadist activities."
There are also 7,000 mosques and 1,000 Islamic religious schools in Mauritania,which are very loosely monitored by the Mauritanian government allowing them to be used by the extremist groups as propaganda and training centers, Khan said.
Since 2005, there have been multiple terrorist attacks within Mauritania, including several kidnappings and the assassinations of U.S. citizen Christopher Ervin Leggett and four French tourists. There were also several attacks on the Israeli and French embassies and the beheading of 12 Mauritanian soldiers.
According to an earlier report from Al-Jazeera, cooperation between the United States and Mauritania has deepened in recent years amid the growing terror threat. In exchange for access to US resources, Mauritania presents the US with a strategic asset in its ongoing "war on terror", experts say.
"Mauritania is a base for upsetting regional stability in West Africa, and that could have repercussions on the United States," Jacob Zenn, an African affairs analyst with the Jamestown Foundation, told the news source. "Historically a lot of the key militants in the Sahel ... have come from Mauritania, [so] a strong Mauritania that has security over its borders and stability within the country is a plus for the entire region."