Morocco Arrests Suspect Tied to Thwarted French Attack Plot

RABAT, Morocco (AP) —
French soldiers patrol in the streets of Marseille, France, November 23, 2016.  REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
French soldiers patrol in the streets of Marseille, France, Nov. 23. (Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

Moroccan police have arrested a “dangerous element” who allegedly served as a liaison between the Islamic State terror group and members of a French cell dismantled last month while allegedly planning an attack, the state-run MAP news agency reported Saturday.

The suspect allegedly met on the Turkish-Syrian border with emissaries of the Islamic State terror group who provided instructions that were to be communicated to the group in France, according to the MAP report. He then was to travel to France via Germany with a false passport, MAP quoted the Interior Ministry as saying.

The news agency did not name the suspect or say when or where in Morocco he was arrested. It quoted the ministry as saying the suspect was a liaison for IS’ foreign operations division.

Two weeks ago, French police arrested five people — four in Strasbourg and one in Marseille — who were suspected of actively planning a Dec. 1 attack in France.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins has said the group in France searched potential attack targets, but it was unclear if any specific sites were picked before the arrests. Molins said a “large-scale attack” was thwarted by the arrests of four long-time friends in Strasbourg and a Moroccan living in Marseille, who did not communicate directly with the others.

While French officials have said the five had contacts with an Islamic State member in Iraq or Syria, the Moroccan report is the first indication that the attack plot in France extended to other countries, too.

The Moroccan Interior Ministry said the arrest in Morocco was made “on the basis of precise information of intelligence services.”

“This dangerous terrorist plan is part of Daesh’s strategy to incite its followers to act against countries fighting terrorism,” the ministry statement said, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym.

Morocco has made a series of recent arrests of suspected Islamic terrorists allegedly linked to the Islamic State group.

The Interior Ministry announced Friday the arrests a day earlier of eight people allegedly working in a cell in the cities of Fez and Tangiers, on the Mediterranean coast. Arms, munitions and documents, some calling for jihad, others containing chemical formulas, were seized from the group, the Moroccan news agency quoted the ministry as saying.

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