RABAT - Moroccan police have busted a “terrorist” cell recruiting and sending volunteers to fight alongside Islamists in Syria and Iraq, arresting six people, the interior ministry said on Wednesday.
Among those arrested in the operation, carried out in the city of Fez in coordination with the domestic intelligence agency (DGST), was a Moroccan Islamist formerly held under the country’s anti-terrorist law, according to the ministry statement.
“(This cell) specialised in recruiting and sending Moroccan volunteers to fight in the ranks of terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq... where they receive military training in the use of weapons and bomb-making techniques,” it said.
Morocco claims to have dismantled scores of jihadist cells since a wave of suicide bombings in Casablanca in May 2003 killed 33 people, including 18 between 2011 and 2013.
Last week, Spanish police arrested eight people belonging to a jihadist recruitment network, whose Moroccan ringleader had been held for three years in Guantanamo Bay. Concerns have grown in Morocco in the past year about the return of battle-hardened Islamists who have gone to fight in Syria - currently estimated at more than 1,000.
And these fears were re-iterated by the interior ministry on Wednesday.
Intelligence gathered by the authorities indicated that “some Moroccan combatants who have taken part in the military operations of groups linked to Al-Qaeda... were determined to return to Morocco to undermine its stability by carrying out terrorist acts,” it said.