RABAT (AFP) – Moroccan security services have arrested 24 people and dismantled an Al-Qaeda linked network which was preparing to carry out attacks, the interior ministry and police said Monday.
“The security services have recently dismantled a terrorist network linked to Al-Qaeda and composed of 24 members,” the north African kingdom’s interior ministry said in a statement.
It said the network “was preparing to commit crimes and acts of sabotage against the security services and interests of Morocco.”
The arrests took place around mid-April in several towns, notably Casablanca, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of Rabat, according to a police source contacted by AFP.
The group recruited Moroccan “activists” to send to locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and the Sahel-Saharan zone, the ministry said, citing initial details from an inquiry led by a prosecutor.
“Candidates were preparing to leave for these regions,” the ministry said.
Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is active in the Sahel-Saharan region, a vast desert territory covering the south of Algeria and the north of Mali and Niger, as well as northeastern Mauritania.
AQIM is notorious for seizing Western hostages and killed one of them, Edwin Dyer, on May 31 last year when Britain refused to pay a ransom.
Some suspects were found in possession of a pistol and ammunition that they had taken after attacking a police officer in Casablanca, the statement said. Police also seized knives.
The network included four Moroccan former detainees convicted of acts of terrorism in the kingdom, the statement said, without giving details on the other suspects.
The detainees will be transferred before the anti-terrorist tribunal at the end of the inquiry, the ministry said.
Since March 2, Moroccan security services have reported the arrest of 30 suspected terrorists, including those announced on Monday.
Generally, Islamic activists arrested in Morocco belong to the extremist movement, Salafia Jihadia, according to local press reports. However, the six presumed terrorists whose arrest was announced on March 2 were reportedly Takfirists.
The Takfirist ideology is upheld by a violent Islamist movement forming a tiny minority in Morocco, who argue that society and its rulers have strayed from the true path. Takfirism first appeared in Egypt in the 1970s.
More than 2,000 Islamists have been arrested and sentenced in Morocco since the Casablanca bombings of May 16, 2003. Five separate suicide bomb attacks, the most deadly inside a restaurant, claimed 45 lives, including those of 12 bombers, and wounded many people in the northern port city.