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Morocco: Men linked to al-Qaida held

Moroccan police say they have dismantled a terrorist network in the making, arresting 17 people with links to members of al-Qaida.

Last Modified: 20 Nov 2005 19:46 GMT
Police said two suspects were recruiting extremists

Moroccan police say they have dismantled a terrorist network in the making, arresting 17 people with links to members of al-Qaida.

Two top suspects arrested, Khaled Azig and Mohamed R'ha, were recruiting extremists for their cause, the official MAP news agency quoted police as saying on Sunday.

Members of the network had links with small groups on the Iraqi border and close ties to leading members of al-Qaida, MAP quoted police as saying.

No details were provided, including the exact nature of the links. The news agency did not say when the arrests were made.

Trips to Turkey

Morocco's intelligence services have been tracking Azig, a Moroccan who once studied theology in Syria, since March.

He made frequent trips to Turkey but returned to Morocco in June, MAP quoted police as saying. Azig was joined on 29 September by R'ha, a Belgian of Moroccan origin known to have close ties with North Africans in Europe. He also had made trips to Syria, MAP reported.

Among the people allegedly being recruited were two Moroccans who had been prisoners at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Brahim Benchekroun and Mohamed Mazouz, police told the news agency.

Arrested in Pakistan and Afghanistan in late 2001, they were among five Moroccans accused of taking training courses in handling firearms and making explosives.

Turned over to the Moroccan authorities in August 2004, they were given provisional freedom.

Morocco has been tracking extremists since bombing attacks in Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 people, including 13 bombers. The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group is suspected in the bombings that authorities have said were linked to al-Qaida.

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