Morocco says breaks up ISIS militant cell
The cell, the latest in a string of radical groups Morocco say it has uncovered, operated in several cities
Moroccan authorities said on Monday they had dismantled a militant cell planning to create an ISIS affiliate in the North African kingdom, seizing guns and accusing its members of plotting attacks.
The cell, the latest in a string of radical groups Morocco say it has uncovered, operated in several cities including the two largest tourist destinations, Marrakesh and Agadir, authorities said.
Hundreds of fighters from Morocco and other Maghreb states like Tunisia and Algeria have joined Islamist militant forces in Syria's civil war. Some are starting to head home and create a new jihadi battlefield, security experts say.
Last week, gunmen attacked a museum in Tunis and killed 23 people, mostly foreign tourists. Algeria temporarily evacuated nearly 100 Turkish construction workers from a roadway project east of Algiers, a source said on Monday, after a threat from militants affiliated with Islamic State.
The 13 members of the cell in Morocco had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, and planned to create an offshoot, called the Islamic State in the Extreme Maghreb.
Reporters were shown six pistols and ammunition seized from a hideout near the southern city of Agadir, in the offices of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) in the city of Sale. The BCIJ is a new judicial part of the Moroccan domestic intelligence service.
“The cell was plotting to perpetrate attacks against politicians and members of the security forces and steal their arms,” Abdelhak Khayyam, the CBIJ chief, told reporters.
He said 1,354 Moroccan nationals are fighting with armed groups in Syria and Iraq, 220 have returned home and been jailed and 286 have been killed. Near 158 women and 135 children have also gone there, he said.
Morocco, a Western ally against Islamist militancy, often announces it has broken up radical cells accused of plotting inside and outside the kingdom.
It has suffered many bomb attacks by suspected Islamist guerrillas, most recently in 2011 in Marrakesh.