Seven Moroccans suspected of planning “large-scale terrorist acts” in the name of the Islamic State group (IS) were arrested on Friday, a police spokesman said.
The suspects “planned to carry out… a series of terrorist operations targeting sensitive infrastructure and strategic sites in coordination with foreign elements”, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The alleged leader of the cell was “in contact with an explosives expert active within the ranks of IS”, the statement added.
The arrests were carried out by special forces of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation in several areas — Tamaris, in the southern suburbs of Casablanca, as well as in Chefchaouen and Ouazzane, in the country’s north.
Weapons, munitions, a dinghy, diving equipment, balaclavas, bags containing chemical products and a pledge of allegiance to IS were found at the suspected ringleader’s home in Tamaris.
The search of a house rented by another suspect in Ouazzane uncovered weapons, camping gear and mountain climbing equipment.
The ministry said the group is thought to have been planning to set up “a rear base” in the mountainous areas of the region.
The suspects are in custody and investigations are ongoing to arrest possible accomplices, the interior ministry said.
In July, three Moroccan men were sentenced to death — a penalty not applied in Morocco since 1993 — for the murder of two Scandinavian tourists in the name of IS in December in the High Atlas mountains.
The men belonged to a radicalised group that had been meeting for several years in Marrakech undetected.
Sentences were handed down for the 21 other accused members of the group ranging from five years to life in prison.
Their appeal is expected to conclude next week.
Until last year, Morocco had been spared recent violence linked to jihadist groups.
Previously, the country had been hit by an attack in Casablanca in 2003 that killed 33 and another in Marrakech in 2011 that left 17 dead.
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse