Al Qaeda spreads across Africa, says new report

A resident inspects a police patrol van that was bombed by Islamic extremists Boko Haram outside Sheka police station in northern Nigerian city of Kano on January 25, 2012.</p>

A resident inspects a police patrol van that was bombed by Islamic extremists Boko Haram outside Sheka police station in northern Nigerian city of Kano on January 25, 2012.

NAIROBI, Kenya — Under pressure in its traditional hideouts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq the terrorist outfit Al Qaeda is increasingly focused on Africa, according to a new report from Britain's Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The report, "Global Jihad Sustained Through Africa," is scary reading.

"Since the central leadership of Al Qaeda is weakened and challenged, the terrorist movement is looking to partnerships in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa to re-group and re-energize," the report says.

It points to groups such as Somalia's Al Shabaab, Nigeria's Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which it says have "undergone similar patterns of strategic, tactical and propagandistic evolution." The report describes their activities as creating "an arc of regional instability encompassing the whole Sahara-Sahel strip and extending through to East Africa."

The warning is timely as reports emerge from Timbuktu in Mali of AQIM leaders meeting with an Islamist branch of the Tuareg rebellion there raising fears that extremists may be gaining a firm foothold and control of territory in the desert north.