• January 31, 2023

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Moroccan authorities have dismantled a cell of Islamic State group-affiliated militants and arrested three suspects accused of plotting an assassination, security services said Tuesday.

The suspects, detained in the southern city of Errachidia, had planned “crimes of a terrorist nature against individuals” and selected a public servant for “imminent assassination”, according to the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), which oversees counter-terrorism operations.

Security forces searched the suspects’ homes and a shop, where they found military clothing, jihadist literature and information, it said.

The head of the cell was “active in recruiting from the among followers of traditional religious trends”, said the statement carried by the MAP state news agency.

“He used his shop as a place of worship after he was banned from praying at the mosque, and as a safe place to instill extremist thought among his followers,” it said.

The suspects, aged 21, 27 and 37, “had shared digital content of a terrorist nature such as those documenting suicide attacks and killings carried out by Daesh”, it said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

They were remanded in custody for further investigations on the cell’s potential international links, its plans and any other people “involved in its extremist activities”, the statement said, warning that Morocco continues to face the threat of terror attacks.

Since 2002, Moroccan security services have dismantled more than 2,000 extremist cells and made over 3,500 arrests linked to terrorism, according to BCIJ figures published in February.

The country has largely been spared jihadist attacks since 2003, when five suicide attacks killed 33 people and wounded scores more in the economic capital, Casablanca.

But in 2018, two Scandinavian tourists were murdered by IS-linked militants during a hiking trip in the High Atlas mountains.

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