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Training camps in Mauritania train foreign recruits for ISIS, al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) could be working together at al-Qaeda-run training camps in the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, where at least eighty recruits from the United States, Canada, and Europe are being indoctrinated into radical jihad and training for attacks that could reach the West.

“The situation in Mauritania is powder keg very few people are talking about,” said Veryan Khan, editorial director for the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC), which had a source on the ground in Mauritania who visited the camps and obtained documentation.

Mauritania’s roughly three million people are concentrated on the coast, around the capital of Nouakchott, while the rest of the vast country is arid desert and sparsely inhabited. This is where the al-Qaeda training camps are based.

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“This is not a travel destination,” Khan said. “The only reason someone would come here from a Western country is to train for terrorism.”

Videos and photos of the camps obtained by TRAC show signs in English, providing some evidence of Westerns’ presence. “The fear of returning foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq is high, but Mauritania-trained fighters are not even on anyone’s radar,” said Khan.

Besides the two main al-Qaeda camps, Mauritania has about 1,000 madrassas, most of which face little or no government monitoring. Experts told i-HLS this little to no control or oversight is effectively an “incubator” for these institutions to be used as propaganda and training centers. This is in line with Khan’s description.

According to Home Land Security News Wire, the al-Qaeda training camps received a boost with the release of five terrorists formerly imprisoned in the Nouakchott Central Prison, this after a January 24 prison riot in which two guards were taken hostage.