Morocco dismantles suspected terrorist cell

Security forces arrest five suspected terrorists affiliated to Islamic State group in four cities across Morocco.

CASABLANCA - Morocco dismantled Thursday a terrorist cell with suspected links to the Islamic State group, according to the Interior Ministry.

The Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) carried out security operations simultaneously in the cities of Tangier, Tiflet, Temara and Skhirat, in the early hours of Thursday, which culminated in the arrest of five suspected extremists aged between 29 and 43 years old.

One of the suspects arrested in Tiflet fiercely resisted security forces, injuring one of them with a sharp tool, said the BCIJ.

Another suspect arrested in the town of Temara tried to blow himself up with a large gas cylinder, which forced security forces to fire four bullets, stun grenades and smoke bombs in order to blur the suspect's vision to apprehend him.

Three explosive belts, 15 bottles containing suspected chemical materials, 2 electric detonators, electronic equipment, chemical powder and electric cables were among the dangerous equipment seized during the operations, said the BCIJ.

The research and investigations carried out reveal, it is continued, that the head of the terrorist cell had a criminal record in violent crimes and considered a dangerous suspect.

He planned, along with other suspects, to carry out terrorist operations targeting several facilities and sensitive sites, using explosive devices and belts to destabilize the security and stability of the North African kingdom.

The investigation also revealed that all the suspects, who have reached advanced stages of planning and preparation of their terrorist projects, had carried out reconnaissance missions to identify their targets which they planned to attack with suicide bombings.

The cell was planning to cause heavy damage with heavy impact on behalf of the IS.

Until 2018, Morocco had been spared jihadist attacks since 2011, when a bomb attack on a cafe in Marrakesh's famed Jamaa El Fna Square killed 17 people, most of them European tourists.

Two young Scandinavian women were beheaded while on a hiking trip in Morocco's High Atlas mountains last December.

Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and her hiking companion 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland, nature lovers who were training to be guides, were on a Christmas holiday hiking trip when they were killed.

Attacks in the North African country's financial capital Casablanca killed 33 people in 2003.

Those attacks - carried out by 12 suicide operatives who came from one of Casablanca's main shanty towns - greatly affected public opinion.

Morocco has since improved its security and legal framework, alongside boosting supervision of religious affairs and anti-terror cooperation with other states.