A suspected terror cell disbanded by the Moroccan authorities has ties with Arabs in Afghanistan and possibly with Al-Qa’ida, according to sources in Morocco. Security forces captured 15 members of a suspected terror cell described as being dangerous. The arrests were made two weeks ago but were only officially publicized on Friday.
Chemicals and electronic equipment used to make explosives were found in their possession, the official Moroccan news agency MAP reported. The cell, known as Fatah Al-Andalus (The Andalusian Conquest), was the fourth such cell to be captured in Morocco this year. Moroccan sources said they were planning terror attacks in Marrakesh and in Agadir and had links to extremists from outside the country, who had pledged allegiance to Al-Qa’ida.
On Sunday security forces cordoned off an artery in northern Morocco while searching for other possible cell members on the run. More than 100 trucks and vehicles carrying security personnel have been scouring the region since Saturday night. They are looking for a suspect who is said to be the mastermind of the cell, and is thought to be seeking to escape Morocco to Spain, according to the London-based A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
Moroccan sources have not revealed the identity of the head of the group, but it is assumed he is an Afghani Arab linked with Al-Qa’ida. Morocco is an ally of the United States in the war on terrorism and has been the target of several terror attacks. This year the country marked the fifth anniversary since a series of terror attacks in Casablanca killed 45 people
This recent terror sweep is a result of anti-terror measures that have been taken in Morocco over the past five years which have helped detect and pre-empt such movements, Dr. Jack Kalpakian, a lecturer in international studies at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, told The Media Line.
These anti-terror laws have drawn criticism from human-rights organizations because they give the police sweeping powers, which they say infringe on personal liberties. However, Kalpakian said he believed these measures were “extremely effective.”
“People criticizing these measures have no clue about the effect on peoples’ lives in terms of employment and lost tourism revenues that terror attacks have.”
Kalpakian said the Afghani and Al-Qa’ida links were not new, but added that the fact the leader was linked to Al-Qa’ida did not necessarily suggest the followers were also Al-Qa’ida members. “In an earlier case of a disbanded cell the members didn’t even know the name of the organization they were fighting for, or who the leadership was,” he said.
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