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Monday, September 26, 2011

AQIM Recruits in Morocco Aim at Europe

Morocco smashes three-member Al Qaeda-linked network

RABAT Morocco said on Friday it had broken up a three-man cell with links to Al Qaeda, while Mali’s intelligence officials say the group is seeking to infiltrate into Morocco to facilitate attacks inside Europe.

Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch “is looking through all available means” to develop a network in Morocco, both to “destabilise the country, but also to more easily attack Europe”, said a report from Mali’s security services, seen by AFP.

Morocco explained that the group it identified planned to carry out attacks on security headquarters and western interests in the country.

“The members of this cell intended to join camps of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) outside Morocco to undergo military training with the aim of returning to the kingdom to carry out criminal acts,” the interior ministry said.

Mali’s intelligence report noted that Morocco had, up to now, successfully thwarted any infiltration by AQIM, but the group is nevertheless resolved to penetrate the kingdom.

A Moroccan security source said the uncovered AQIM cell was “very dangerous”, adding that it was “the first time AQIM is implicated in a planned operation inside Morocco”.

Morocco said the cell called the Al Battar Squadron, “included a former detainee under anti-terrorist legislation, and was headed by one of the most active individuals on jihadist Internet sites with links to the Al Qaeda network”.

“This individual had close relations with terrorist organisations in Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Iraq,” a ministry statement added.

The interior ministry said: “The members of this cell were in constant contact with the leadership of AQIM with the aim of obtaining the weapons necessary for carrying out their criminal project in the country and of coordinating their operations in line with the objectives of this terrorist organisation.”

Mali’s report said that to combat AQIM’s expansionist plans, the region’s security services must boost cooperation, and that “the fight cannot only be left to Algeria”.

The report noted Niger, Nigeria and Chad as countries with whom ties must be strengthened.

“The contacts between Boko Haram of Nigeria and AQIM must lead Mali’s government to diversify its relations and its methods of combat,” the report said.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for an August 26 attack on the United Nations compound in the Nigerian capital Abuja that killed at least 23.

AQIM has organised a series of attacks and kidnappings from its bases in northern Mali, notably against foreigners. Along with Niger and Mauritania, Mali is the country most affected by the group’s activities to date.

On Friday, at least one person died and several others were injured when their car drove over a landmine in a northern Mali forest where AQIM was known to operate, security officials said.

The Rest @ Oman Tribune

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