An Islamic State cell broken up last week planned to attack Casablanca and its port while a Syrian militant who assisted the group is at large, the head of Morocco’s BCIJ security agency said.
The group targeted economically sensitive sites in Casablanca and offshore, said Abdelhak Khiame, adding the jihadists, aged between 19 and 27, were radicalised online.
Khiame said the cell was probably the last to pledge allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before he was killed in a US Special Forces raid in Syria.
Police arrested seven suspected militants near Casablanca and in the northern areas of Ouazzane and Chefchaouen in possession of firearms, bomb-making material, an inflatable boat, diving equipment and navigation tools.
“The leader of the cell attempted to join IS in the Sahel but failed,” he said.
“The global jihadist group then instructed him to prepare attacks in Morocco instead and an unnamed Syrian provided him with logistic help,” Khiame said. “The weapons seized originated from the Sahel,” he added.
Compared to other North African countries, Morocco has been largely insulated from Islamist militant attacks. The most recent one was in December 2018 when militants loyal to Islamic State killed two Scandinavian tourists.