Rabat – Moroccan police said on Wednesday they had broken up a cell linked to the Islamic State group in the port city of Tangiers, arresting five people suspected of planning cross-border attacks.
The suspects were planning “to carry out remote-controlled explosions targeting security installations and personalities, as well as public buildings hosting Moroccan and foreign citizens,” said the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ).
The five, aged 22-28, had raised funds and “acquired several products used in the production of homemade bombs”, it added, in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.
Security forces seized “bottles containing nitric acid and other suspect liquids as well as nails, electric wires and six gas cylinders” which could be used for bomb-making, it added.
They also found knives, military-style uniforms, an ISIS flag and portraits of its chief in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, reported killed by French forces in mid-September.
“The emir of the terrorist cell had made several contacts with high-ranking leaders of IS in the Sahel-Sahara region,” the statement added.
The announcement came weeks after Morocco said it had arrested three members of an IS-linked cell in the country’s south, followed by four more members days later.
They were accused of plotting attacks and assassinations.
Since 2002, Moroccan security services have dismantled more than 2 000 extremist cells and made over 3 500 arrests linked to terrorism, according to BCIJ figures published in February.
The country has largely been spared jihadist attacks since 2003, when five suicide attacks killed 33 people and wounded scores more in the economic capital, Casablanca.
But in 2018, two Scandinavian tourists were murdered by IS-linked militants during a hiking trip in the High Atlas mountains.
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