Moroccan authorities said on Friday they had arrested 10 suspected militants linked to the Islamic State, including a French citizen, and seized weapons and bomb-making materials in raids on their hideouts.
The cell is the latest in a series of radical groups Morocco says it has uncovered. Thursday’s raids took place at locations the group used in the southern city of Essaouira and the central cities of Meknes and Sidi Kacem, authorities said.
At the offices of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), reporters were shown weapons, ammunition, tasers, swords and bomb materials seized from hideouts. BCIJ is the judicial wing of Morocco’s domestic intelligence service.
“This new cell is too dangerous … I don’t call it a cell but an armed brigade,” bureau head Abdelhak al-Khayyam told reporters.
Al-Khayyam said the group had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and set up a hideout near the desert city of Tan-Tan in an arid area riddled with caves.
The suspects include a French citizen, who converted to Islam and lived in Morocco for at least a year, and a 16-year-old Moroccan.
The group was planning to use the 16-year-old as a suicide truck bomber, al-Khayyam said, and attack institutions and prominent Moroccans on Friday Feb. 19.
The BCIJ’s chief said the weapons came from Libya but declined to give further details.
Morocco says it has dismantled 152 militant cells since 2002, including 31 since 2013 that it says were linked to armed groups fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Hundreds of fighters from Morocco and other Maghreb states like Tunisia and Algeria have joined Islamist militants fighting in Syria. Some are threatening to return and create new jihadi groups in their home countries, security experts say.
Morocco, a Western ally against Islamist militancy, has often been targeted by militants, most recently in 2011 in the western city of Marrakesh.