In a series of coordinated raids, Moroccan authorities have broken up a female Islamic State cell that was allegedly plotting suicide bombings and other acts of terror.
On Monday, Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations conducted operations in eight separate towns and cities, arresting a total of ten Muslim women and seizing chemicals that could be used in explosives, according to a statement from the Moroccan Interior Ministry.
The women had “tried to obtain the chemicals used to make explosive belts” and had planned to attack “vital installations,” according to the ministry.
The raids took place throughout the country, including towns and cities near the capital of Rabat, such as Kenitra and Sidi Slimane, and as far north as Tangier.
The Islamists reportedly had declared allegiance to ISIS and were trying to recruit other women to join in jihad. Several are related to Moroccan jihadists active in Syria or Iraq.
Islamic terrorists in countries like Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria have often used girls and women as suicide bombers, since they are better able to infiltrate areas with higher security.
According to Mahamat Ahmat, head of security of the refugee camp Dar es Salam in Chad, jihadists use women and girls as kamikazes to more easily elude military controls and checkpoints.
“Women and girls wear flowing garments and it is harder to detect whether they are carrying explosives underneath, and besides people tend to be less suspicious of them,” he said.
Thousands of foreign fighters from North African states of the Maghreb, such as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, have joined Islamist militant forces in Syria’s civil war, and some have threatened to return and create new jihadist wings in their home countries.
A 2015 study by the US-based Soufan Group found that as many as 1,500 Moroccans had joined the Islamic State or other Islamic terror organizations as foreign fighters.
Last July, Moroccan authorities arrested 52 people suspected of belonging to an Islamic State cell that planned to conduct attacks on government and tourist locations.
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