Al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate is expanding its footprint amid the chaos in the country and now providing guidance to the Somalia terror group that claimed responsibility for last week's deadly terror attack at a university, an intelligence source told Fox News.
The warning underscores the growing threat posed by Al Qaeda in Yemen at a time when the advance of Shiite rebels has effectively created a power vacuum in the country, with the unrest stalling what had been a robust U.S. counterterrorism operation there.
The intelligence source told Fox News that the affiliate is providing guidance to Somalia's al-Shabaab on how major plots -- like the attack at Garissa University College in Kenya that killed nearly 150 people -- can support their regional ambitions.
The intelligence source said Al Qaeda in Yemen is providing guidance and fighters, and sharing bomb-making techniques that account for the more sophisticated vehicle-borne explosive devices now being recovered in the region.
In mid-March, for instance, FBI investigators found a Toyota Hilux with IEDs welded to the floor and back-seat of a vehicle that had been tracked by the FBI from Somalia to Kenya.
Al Qaeda's affiliate also got a boost last week by taking advantage of the fall of Mukalla -- the capital of Yemen's largest province, Hadramawt. Militants freed about 300 inmates from the city's main prison. About one-third of the prisoners released are militants with Al Qaeda in Yemen, and one of the group's top regional commanders, Khaled Batarfi, was among them.
A 2006 prison break had originally laid the foundation for the establishment of the group's leadership.
Meanwhile, the influence of AQAP is not lost even on President Obama's own party.
California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said Sunday that Al Qaeda is having a "resurgence."
"In Yemen the news is really all bad," Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told ABC's "This Week." "Just as we feared in the chaos ... Al Qaeda has had a resurgence."
"It's absolutely a safe haven," Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, also told ABC.
He said the administration's policy is correct, though, compared to the alternative of a massive American occupation.
"That doesn't mean that the administration's strategy is flawless, however," he said. "And I think had we put greater emphasis and resources in trying to deal with the governance issues in Yemen, this might have been prevented."
At least 500 people have been killed in the fighting as Shiite rebels known as Houthis continue to try to overthrow the Yemen government and as neighboring Saudi Arabia leads an airstrike campaign to stop the rebels.
The administration has referred to its efforts in Yemen as a "success story" and just several days ago continued to defend its strategy.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC that U.S. policy "should not be graded against the success or the stability of the Yemeni government."
He also said the strategy has been to try to bolster the government in Yemen, which has for years been in a chaotic state and the administration's objective "has never been to try to build a Jeffersonian democracy."
"The goal is to make sure Yemen cannot be a safe haven that extremists can use to attack the West and to attack the United States," he said.
Late last month, the administration removed U.S. personnel from the Arab country, as the situation deteriorated.
Obama has said several times in recent years that Al Qaeda has been "decimated" or is "on the run."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.