Even for a country used to dismantling terrorist cells, the latest counter-terrorism raids by Moroccan agents showcased the country’s preparedness to respond the faintest suspicion of terrorist plots.
Rabat – Moroccan special agents arrested a 7th ISIS-linked suspect in Tamaris II, a beach town near Casablanca, in what is so far the country’s most far-reaching counter-terrorism operations.
The arrest took place on the evening of Friday, October 25. Searches are still ongoing to arrest other suspects or accomplices in the affair, authorities have indicated.
The news came after the arrest of six individuals in large-scale counter-terrorism carried out raids simultaneously in three different locations: two in the Casablanca area and one in the Ouazzane province. The raids took place in the early morning hours of Friday, October 25.
By noon of the same day, the news made the rounds in national papers, social media, as well as a handful of international publications. Over the years, Morocco has gained worldwide recognition for its effective, almost irreproachable security architecture. The country is often deservingly labeled as an oasis of stability in a troubled region.
But even for a country with Morocco’s pedigree on counter-terrorism, Friday’s raids caught the attention of many for the rapidity of Moroccan Special Forces in responding to the threat posed by the ISIS-linked cell.
Two of the suspects had rented an apartment in Chefchaouen on October 24 and planned to strike on the following day, only to be stopped by BCIJ officers early in the morning. Morocco’s 2M TV reported that the suspects had “an impressive arsenal” of knives, shotguns, and explosive materials when authorities arrested them.
Investigations continue to shed further light in the case, according to a statement from the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (DGST).
In another declaration, the ministry of interior, while reassuring citizens about the country’s preparedness to preempt terrorist plots, acknowledged that this cell was unlike any other ISIS-linked cell Moroccan agents have dismantled in the past months and years.
The activities of the cell were on a “very advanced” scale, the ministry said, detailing that the cell was not only planning to “strike a number of sensitive sites throughout the country.”
In addition to carrying out terrorist plots in extremely sensitive areas across the country, the cell’s ultimate plan was to find itself a safe haven in the mountainous areas in Northern Morocco, where its members sought to establish an “ISIS-governed willayah.”
Meanwhile, a DGST statement issued earlier today has denied a number of rumors circulating about the sites that the terrorists planned to attack.
In the aftermath of the arrests, a number of reports indicated that the cell wanted to duplicate ISIS-inspired attacks recently witnessed in Sahel countries by mostly targeting foreign interests, such as foreign schools or hotels.
DGST says the allegations are “false,” “unfounded,” and appear to have been made to instill fear among citizens. The statement stressed that special agents are tracking down the origins of the allegations, as well as any other “rumors” seeking to spread panic and fear.