Moroccan authorities say they have arrested seven people suspected to be jihadists with links to Islamic State.
An initial group of six suspects, aged between 22 and 28, were ISIS “supporters” and suspected of planning “terrorist acts,” the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) said in a statement on Tuesday, April 23.
They were arrested in the coastal town of Sale, near Rabat, in a raid led by the bureau’s anti-terrorism squad.
Electronic devices, bladed weapons and “extremist” documents, were found during the raid, it said.
Démantèlement d'un réseau qualifié de "sensible"en cours à #Salé. 6 unités d'intervention composées d'une dizaine de personnes chacune sont mobilisées.
Opération menée par éléments du #BCIJ et #DGST, en coordination avec la préfecture de #Salé .
— 2M.ma (@2MInteractive) April 23, 2019
Investigators later said a seventh person had been arrested in the Western Sahara town of Dakhla on suspicion of links with the Sale detainees.
Moroccan authorities regularly announce they have dismantled ISIS cells. On April 10, the BCIJ said it had dismantled a four-member terror cell in Taza, Morocco World News reported. That followed the earlier arrests of six people in the Casablanca area on March 14, and five in Safi in February.
On April 17, Spain’s interior ministry said police arrested a man in Morocco who is suspected of preparing an attack in Seville, the southern Spanish city known for its Easter processions.
Morocco tourist murder trial to open on May 2
Suspected jihadist sympathizers will face trial on May 2 for the murder of two Scandinavian women in Morocco, a defense lawyer told AFP on Tuesday.
The killing of Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in December was deemed a “terrorist” act by Moroccan authorities.
Twenty-four defendants will face trial in Sale on charges including promoting terrorism, forming a terrorist cell or causing premeditated harm to persons, according to defence lawyer Saad Sahli.
A Spanish-Swiss man who authorities allege subscribed to “extremist ideology” stands accused of helping the four main suspects in the murder, charges he denies.
The decapitated bodies of the two victims were found in the High Atlas mountains, where they had been hiking in an area popular with tourists.
A video circulated on social media allegedly showed the murder of one of the women, while Rabat’s prosecutor has said the four main suspects appeared in separate footage pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group.
The accused however had no contact with the jihadist group in conflict zones, according to Morocco’s anti-terror chief.
Morocco has been spared large-scale jihadist attacks since a 2011 bombing in Marrakesh’s famed Jamaa El Fna Square that killed 17 people, mainly European tourists. An attack in 2003 on the financial capital Casablanca left 33 people dead.
With reporting from AFP