April 13, 2015 / 12:12 PM / 3 years ago

Morocco says breaks up Islamic State cell with Dutch ties

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco has broken up a militant cell it said was loyal to Islamic State and was planning to stage attacks at home and in the Netherlands, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

The cell, the latest in a string of militant groups Morocco says it has uncovered, operated near the northern city of Nador, with a sixth member planning to use guns and bombs against security forces in the Netherlands, the ministry said.

“The members of the cell were planning specific terrorist operations in the kingdom, including assassinations of people they accuse of being against the Islamic State beliefs,” its statement said.

“Investigations showed that the members of the cell were holding secret meetings ... and were taking part in paramilitary training in one of the forests of the town of Selwane, near the city of Nador.”

The Moroccan domestic intelligence service gave Dutch authorities information that allowed the arrest of the member living in Netherlands, the statement said.

Hundreds of fighters from Morocco and other Maghreb states such as Tunisia and Algeria have joined Islamist militant forces in Syria’s civil war. Some are starting to head home and create a new jihadi battlefield, security experts say.

Last month, Moroccan authorities said they arrested members of a militant cell planning to create an Islamic State affiliate in the North African kingdom, seizing guns and accusing its members of plotting attacks.

Morocco has suffered several bomb attacks by suspected Islamist militants.

In 2011 a blast in a cafe in Marrakesh killed 15 people including 10 foreigners. That was the worst attack since 2003, when suicide bombings killed more than 45 people in Casablanca.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Alison Williams

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