(photo credit: ISLAMIC SOCIAL MEDIA)
SALE, Morocco - Moroccan authorities said on Monday they had dismantled a militant cell planning to create an Islamic State affiliate, seizing 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. The group was operating in the southern city of Essaouira and the central town of Sidi Allal al-Bahraoui.
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 part of the Moroccan domestic intelligence service.
The five members of the group had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, and planned to create a local offshoot, called the Caliphate Soldiers in Morocco, bureau head Abdelhak Khayyam said.
The group's name is inspired from the Algerian group of the Caliphate Soldiers, an al Qaeda splinter faction that had declared allegiance to ISIS last year before kidnapping and beheading a French tourist.
"The weapons came to Morocco through the eastern borders with Algeria," Khayyam said.
Hundreds of fighters from Morocco and other Maghreb states like Tunisia and Algeria have joined Islamist militant forces in Syria's war. Some are threatening to return and create a new jihadi wings in their home countries, security experts say.
Five members of the latest cell were planning to leave to Syria and Iraq after perpetrating an attack, authorities said.
Morocco, a Western ally against Islamist militancy, often announces it has broken up radical cells accused of plotting attacks. It has suffered many bomb attacks by Islamist militants, most recently in 2011 in Marrakesh.