RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan authorities said on Sunday they arrested a suspected Algerian member of the militant group responsible for kidnapping and beheading French tourist Herve Gourdel east of Algiers in September.
An al Qaeda splinter group known as Caliphate Soldiers kidnapped Gourdel when he was hiking in the Algerian mountains. Militants later showed a video of his beheading, saying they killed him to punish France for its military actions in Iraq.
The suspect, who was with another individual still on the run, was arrested in Beni Drar, near the Moroccan city of Oujda, a statement from the Moroccan interior ministry said.
Oujda is located a few kilometers from the Algerian border.
“He was carrying dangerous substances, telecommunication devices … and guns,” the statement said without giving more details.
North African neighbors Morocco and Algeria share a 1,500 km (970 miles) land border that runs from the Mediterranean to the Sahara desert. It has been shut since the 1990s as the two countries have been locked in bitter disputes.
Borders between the two countries are still familiar for smugglers and sub-Saharan migrants trying to reach Europe.
Algeria shut its land border with Morocco for the last time in 1994 after Morocco imposed visa requirements on Algerians in the wake of a shooting attack in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.
Morocco said at the time it suspected the gunmen, who killed two Spaniards, had ties to Algeria, which was then caught in a bloody war against Islamist militants.
Last month, Algerian special forces killed Abdelmalek Gouri, the leader of the Caliphate Soldiers, but a dozen militants are still wanted by the Algerian authorities. Algerian forces also found the body of Gourdel earlier this month.
Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Patrick Markey and Chris Reese