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Report — Morocco dismantles suspected terror cell

By Alfred de Montesquiou

Associated Press

RABAT, Morocco — Moroccan security services have arrested 11 people on charges of plotting attacks in Morocco and Belgium and having links to Iraq’s insurgency, the Moroccan state news agency said Monday.

The suspects, including a Moroccan living in Belgium, were arrested in the cities of Nador and Fez, the MAP agency said, citing unidentified police officials. The report did not say when the arrests took place.

Those arrested are accused of having links to cells sending fighters to Iraq’s insurgency and to camps of an Algeria-based militant group, Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa. The report said authorities believed the suspects were planning attacks in Morocco and Belgium, without elaborating.

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No further information would be disclosed for several days because the case is too sensitive, security officials said by telephone, on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the media.

In Brussels, Lieve Pellens, a spokeswoman for the Belgian Federal Prosecutors Service, told The Associated Press that her office was "not aware" of the case and was contacting Moroccan authorities.

A Moroccan court is already investigating a terrorism cell dismantled in the northern city of Tetouan and accused of supporting insurgents in Iraq.

Last week, the court said it was broadening the investigation to include relatives of some of the 27 people accused of "recruiting Moroccans for Iraq" and "forming a criminal gang with the goal of preparing and committing terrorist acts." MAP said the 11 arrests were not related to an earlier alleged plot involving a Belgian citizen of Moroccan origin, Abdelkader Bellarj. He and 34 others were arrested in February on charges of preparing terrorist attacks and illegally possessing weapons.

Morocco is a relatively moderate Muslim nation and popular tourist destination allied with the U.S. that has seen a rise of political and extremist Islam in recent years. Suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 people and hundreds of suspected Islamic militants are in jail.

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