Morocco breaks up radical Islamist cell: agency


Moroccan security forces have broken up a Palestinian-led radical Islamist cell that was planning attacks in the North African country, the official MAP news agency said.

Islamist-linked violence is rare in Morocco, a staunch Western ally with a reputation for stability that has helped to entice millions of tourists to visit the country.

The last big attack was a series of suicide bombings in the economic capital, Casablanca, in 2003 which killed 45 people, and since then security services say they have rounded up more than 60 radical cells.

MAP quoted an Interior Ministry statement but gave no details of the planned attacks. However, it said the group had 11 members and that its members follow a radical, Jihadist strain of Islam.

The members of the group were in custody and would soon appear before a judge, the agency said.

The Moroccan government carried out mass arrests after the Casablanca bombings but in recent years has shifted to more targeted surveillance that security experts say has helped the government to prevent several planned attacks.

More than 1000 Islamist militants are now held in Moroccan jails, many of them after trials described by defence lawyers and judicial reform campaigners as unfair and based on flimsy evidence.

The government insists only genuine criminals are imprisoned on solid information and after fair trials.

The Interior Ministry statement quoted by MAP said the men arrested for planning the attacks were Takfirie Jihadists.

This group, which is distinct from al Qaeda, usually targets government officials and secular intellectuals in the Muslim world rather than following the al Qaeda tactic of trying to attack foreign targets.