From Pakistan to Iraq to Yemen, the U.S. has turned up the heat on al Qaeda. The pressure has led the terror group to seek out new safe havens. They've found one in a remote area of the Sahara Desert known as the Islamic Maghreb.
"The Sahara could be the next Afghanistan," terrorism expert Richard Miniter told CBN News. "A wide open desert; a series of failed states with very weak militaries. It's the perfect breeding ground for al Qaeda."
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb -- or AQIM -- has set up shop in the desert areas of Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.
This group of hardened al Qaeda fighters has vowed to target American interests.
"There have been plots by al Qaeda in the Maghreb to attack U.S. warships in Gibraltar," said Miniter. "There have been plots to blow up the U.S. embassy in Bamako. That's the capital of Mali."
Miniter recently returned from North Africa. He supplied CBN News with exclusive, hidden camera footage of AQIM, shot by an undercover informant who penetrated the group.
In the video, AQIM fighters are seen in the Mali desert, where they have several terror training camps.
"They are training in the desert to carry our military assaults," Miniter explained. "And those same groups have carried out assaults on the armies of Mali, Niger and Morocco and, in fact, practice for taking on the U.S."
One clip that Miniter shared exclusively with CBN News showed aftermath of a deadly AQIM raid against an army patrol from Niger. AQIM is seen in the video dividing up the loot they captured.
"Behind the circle of turbaned men, you can clearly see the hardware, both guns, ammunition, tents and other desert gear," Miniter told CBN News.
One of the al Qaeda jihadists featured in the videos was behind the 2009 murder of British hostage Edwin Dyer.
AQIM uses money from kidnappings of Westerners like Dyer and other illicit activities like drug smuggling to fund its operations.
North African intelligence officials tell CBN News that AQIM has an extensive network in Western Europe. They are concerned that the Obama administration's attention is being diverted by Pakistan and Yemen as a gathering al Qaeda storm brews in the Sahara.