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Morocco: Militants got weapons through Spanish enclave

Moroccan militant cell with kidnap agenda got weapons through Spanish enclave, says police

Morocco: Militants got weapons through Spanish enclave

SALE, Morocco (AP) -- A militant cell in Morocco linked to the radical Islamic State group obtained its weapons through the Spanish enclave of Melilla, authorities announced on Monday.

Morocco's new Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation on Sunday busted a multi-city militant network aimed at kidnapping military and political figures in this North African country.

The bureau's director, Abdelkader Khiyam, showed journalists six handguns, ammunition and computers confiscated from the 13 people arrested -- most in the southern coastal town of Agadir.

There are two Spanish cities on Morocco's northern coast, one of which is Melilla, where the weapons had come from.

Spanish and Moroccan police have worked together several times to dismantle networks based out of these cities and the surrounding Moroccan countryside aimed and sending recruits to fight in Syria.

Khiyam said those arrested hadn't been trained abroad, but "they were in permanent contact with leaders of the Islamic State."

Part of their plan was to attack patrolling soldiers to acquire better weapons, he added. He claimed they planned to execute those they kidnapped by decapitating or burning them.

Morocco has largely been spared the attacks by extremists against civilian targets elsewhere in the region, such as last week's attack on a Tunisian museum that killed 21. But it has reported dismantling several cells inspired by radical groups.

Like in Tunisia, many young, disaffected Moroccans have sought to travel abroad to join the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Khiyam said 1,354 Moroccans are believed to have gone to fight with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, of which 156 have returned to Morocco.

So far 246 Moroccan fighters have died in Syria and another 40 in Iraq, he added.

Updated : 2021-04-20 16:30 GMT+08:00