Thursday, January 04, 2007

Moroccan Islamic cell recruited fighters for Iraq

RABAT, Morocco (Reuters) -- Moroccan security forces have dismantled a radical Islamist cell specializing in recruiting volunteers to fight in Iraq and arrested 62 people, the government said on Thursday.

"The security services dismantled a terrorist structure with international ramifications specialized in the recruitment and movement of volunteers to Iraq and operating in certain Moroccan towns and localities," a government statement said.

It said the group had "ideological and financial links" with al Qaeda, the Algeria-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and other international terrorist groups.

Moroccan security officials say police have broken up more than 50 militant Islamist cells, some linked to al Qaeda, and arrested more than 3,000 people since suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003.

Last August the government said it had busted a cell that was planning to declare a holy war in the northeast of the North African country, attack tourist sites and assassinate people who symbolize the state.

Rights groups say hundreds of the people arrested since 2003 have faced ill-treatment or unfair trials, something the government denies.

Its statement said those arrested in the latest round-up will be brought before judicial authorities, in line Morocco's anti-terrorist laws.

The arrests were "transparent and in respect of the law," said government spokesman Nabil Benabdallah.

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