Busted Islamist cells ‘planned attacks’ in Morocco

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Members of two radical Islamist cells dismantled at the weekend in northern Morocco wanted “to carry out jihadist attacks” in the kingdom and had contacts in Spain and Belgium, the interior ministry said on Thursday.

“The members of the two cells, indoctrinated with takfirist (extremist) ideology, had forged links with like-minded people abroad, in occupied Melilla and in Belgium,” the ministry said.

Melilla is a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco.

Eight people suspected members of the cells were arrested on Sunday in Nador, a security source told AFP.

They planned to set up a camp in a mountainous area near Nador, which lies next to Melilla, to use as a base from which to carry out “jihadist attacks” in Morocco and rob banks to finance their activities, according to the ministry.

The leaders of the “terrorist” cells were also seeking to enrol more followers, including by setting up schools in the region to propagate their radical ideas, and proclaim jihad inside Morocco, the ministry added.

The “Al Mouahidoun” and “Attawhid” cells had already carried out robberies and had contacts with jihadists in northern Mali, the authorities said.

In December, the Moroccan authorities said they had broken up a recruitment cell for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a month after announcing having dismantled several “terrorist” cells who were planning attacks in the country.

Next Thursday, Morocco marks 10 years since the suicide bombings in Casablanca, on May 16, 2003, that killed 45, including the 12 attackers.