Morocco Shuts Down Islamic State Cell Plotting Hotel and Mall Bombings

AFP Photo/Fadel Senna
AFP Photo/Fadel Senna

The Moroccan government has broken up an Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) cell that planned to carry out attacks across the country.

The police arrested ten people, including a French national. They also captured the ring leader, who resided in the port city of El Jadida. As reported by i24 News:

They “might have links with jihadists fighting with Daesh,” it said, using an Arabic acronym for IS, and had “received instructions to attack installations and sensitive sites” in Morocco.

They “planned to bring more extremist elements into their destructive plan … under the supervision of experienced Daesh group leaders, one of whom is in Turkey,” it said.

Ammunition and weapons were seized during the raids, the ministry added.

Officials claimed the cell planned to attack the Morocco Mall in Casablanca, headquarters of the Chérifien Office of Phosphates (OCP), and Moroccan Office of Tabacco. Morocco World News reported they also wanted to take out popular tourist areas:

The terrorist cell also reportedly intended to carry out terrorist attacks against the Moroccan tourism industry, including hotel establishments such as “Sofitel” and “Al Madina” in Essaouira. Its ten members planned to murder Western tourists in the city, to assassinate high public civil and military officials, to attack military barracks, especially in Meknes and Marrakech to seize firearms, as well as attack military units deployed at the Moroccan-Algerian border and police officers to take their weapons.

A minor in the group wanted to die a “martyr” by “infiltrating Parliament wearing an explosive belt to carry out a suicide camp.” The suspects told the authorities about a training camp in southern Morocco.

Morocco remains on guard after Islamic State jihadists killed over 59 tourists in Tunisia.

Authorities in Rabat, the capital, claimed they have “broken up” 152 cells since 2002.

Last May, French and Moroccan authorities announced plans to cooperate on counter-terrorist activities. The Associated Press wrote that the two countries “are deeply concerned by the large number of citizens leaving to fight with the Islamic State group in Syrian and Iraq.”

Two months later, officials arrested two women who belonged to an Islamic State cell and sought to perform massive attacks in Morocco. Officials also noted the women traveled to “al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

They arrested thirteen people in August who planned attacks on Morocco’s lucrative tourist industry and were recruiting new members for the Islamic State. Officials found the people along the northern coast. The authorities dismantled a cell in December after they arrested nine members near Rabat.