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Terrorist alliance forming in Iraq, Yemen says

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Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is said by Yemeni officials to be fighting alongside ISIS militants in Iraq. (Source: CNN) Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is said by Yemeni officials to be fighting alongside ISIS militants in Iraq. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) - A potential sign of trouble in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

Yemeni officials call it a nightmare scenario, the possibility that al-Qaida's most fearsome branch, Yemen's al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, could join ISIS in Iraq.

They point to an audio message posted on YouTube earlier this week. In it a man - purported to be Ma'moun Hatem, a AQAP commander from Yemen - repeatedly congratulating ISIS and its leadership on its victories in Iraq.

Yemeni government sources say that members of the AQAP are fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq. A U.S. defense official says there is no indication that the AQAP has joined with ISIS in Iraq.

But the official did say that there are foreign fighters and Sunni militants who are with ISIS there. Hatem, who has more than 30,000 followers on Twitter, posts others' messages of support for ISIS - like a video from jihadist in Indonesia singing the praises of Isis.

Analysts warn any alliance between the two groups could prove extremely dangerous.

"Each group's weaknesses could be filled by the other group. Say one group is very good at bomb making and another group is very good at propaganda. If you put the right bomb at the right place with the right propaganda effect, that can be far more than either of these things on their own," said Jonah Blank of the RAND Corporation.

Yemen is currently on the frontline of a war on terror with al-Qaida. The U.S. Embassy there has been shut down for almost two months.

Despite a massive American-backed counterterror offensive that began in April, the AQAP has proven resilient and resurgent. Since 2011, AQAP has even been able to take over areas of Yemen. ISIS is making similar gains in Iraq. And analysts say the more territory taken by ISIS and the more the group works with AQAP, the worse it'll get.

"If they carve out an area of safe haven, and that's their intent, this could be a launching point for attacks on America, on the West, really attacks globally," Blank said.

There are also reports a small number of ISIS fighters have made their way to Yemen, where they're supporting AQAP in their fight.

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