A cell of dangerous terrorists with allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) found with explosive belts, kilos of ammonium nitrate — the same substance behind the devastating explosion in Beirut, bladed weapons and electronic equipment, was dismantled Thursday at sites in Tangier and the Rabat region of Morocco.
This came after the five Islamist extremists — aged between 29 and 43, put up fierce resistance.
Abdelhak Khiame, head of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), recounted events in an interview Friday at the offices in Sale, near Morocco's capital Rabat, "It was a dangerous cell primed to go into action at any moment."
He added that the dismantled cell had apparently had no direct contact with the jihadists of IS, "Even if the Daesh (Islamic State) was defeated in the Levant, in the region of Syria and Iraq, it is an ideology that is conveyed and does not need a territory, it can develop where it finds sympathisers easily."
Moroccan authorities have warned of the growing presence of Islamist extremism in the Sahel-Sahara region of Africa spanning the western and northern-central areas of the continent — especially in countries such as Mali and Libya who do not yet have their security under control, "Terrorist cells and terrorism are growing in the region but also organised crime networks, drug trafficking, weapons and human beings," said the BCIJ chief. "All of this... makes the Sahel region, in my opinion, a time bomb."
Khiame also stated that the Islamic State-affiliated group had planned suicide attacks targeting "public personalities, military figures and the headquarters of security services" in Morocco.
He reminded that it was the first such large-scale bust since the 2003 Islamist suicide attacks in Casablanca, Morocco's economic capital, that left 33 dead.