Suspects held in Morocco 'planned to attack embassies'

Morocco flag. (iStock)
Morocco flag. (iStock)

Rabat - A top Moroccan security official said on Sunday jihadists linked to the Islamic State group arrested this week had planned to attack embassies and tourist sites in the North African country.

Seven members of a "dangerous cell" were arrested in a dawn operation on Friday in five different cities and "other suspects are on the run", said Abdelhak Khiam who heads Morocco's anti-terrorism security service.

He told a press conference that the group's chief, calling himself an "emir" was among those arrested, and that he had sought to set up a branch of IS in the kingdom.

Khiam said the man had received "financing and weapons from members of the Libyan branch of IS".

This cell was "determined to take action" against "diplomatic representations, tourist sites and public figures", he said, in "coordination with IS members from the Syria-Iraq area and Libya".

The suspects were aged between 20 and 29.

Reporters were shown seized weapons and equipment including seven handguns and a machinegun that Khiam said "came from Libya and were transported via the border with Algeria".

Two military jackets "containing explosives products" were also recovered.

Several suspects were apprehended in a rented apartment in the city of El Jadida.

In a statement on Sunday, the interior ministry said it intended to strengthen controls on the renting of furnished properties.

"It has been discovered that some terrorist groups and organised crime groups have rented houses or apartments whose owners in several cases did not inform the authorities," the statement said.

This "helps suspects conceal themselves and prepare acts of sabotage," it warned, urging owners "to notify the authorities of tenants' identities", on pain of prosecution for complicity.

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