State media: Morocco dismantles new militant cell

AP News
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Posted: Oct 02, 2011 8:22 AM
State media: Morocco dismantles new militant cell

An al-Qaida-linked militant cell planning attacks against foreign companies has been dismantled by Moroccan authorities, the state news agency reported.

The five-man group was operating in the cities of Casablanca and Sale and one of the members was related to a high-ranking al-Qaida operative in Iraq, the report quoting the national intelligence agency said late Saturday.

The group planned to attack "Western interests" and foreign companies in Morocco, as well as prison facilities, the report said, adding that the group was in touch with al-Qaida operatives in Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Somalia and Syria.

Group members were trying to learn how to construct bombs through online contact with explosives experts, including the main defendant in the bombing attack against a Marrakech cafe, the report said.

Eight people are currently on trial for the April 28 attack against the Argana cafe, which killed 17 people, mostly tourists.

Moroccan authorities said members of a three-man cell based in Casablanca were arrested on Sept. 23 and had plans to attack police stations to secure weapons. The group also had contact with al-Qaida elements abroad, authorities said.

Al-Qaida's North African branch has rarely carried out attacks in Morocco. It is active primarily in Algeria and deep in the Sahara Desert in Niger and Mali, where it has kidnapped numerous foreigners.

In an August video message posted on online jihadi forums, the organization promised renewed attacks all over Africa in retaliation for the killing of al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in May.