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North Africa: Morocco Terror Risk Spikes

The deadly conflict now unfolding in Mali between armed Islamists and an international military coalition seems far removed from Morocco.

But with al-Qaeda working to foster ties with distant extremist circles, the active recruiting of Moroccan jihadists brings the Mali crisis perilously close to the kingdom.
In late December, the Moroccan judicial police broke up an al-Qaeda cell in Fez. The group's goal: to "enrol and recruit young Moroccans who have embraced jihadist ideas, in order to send them to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) camps", the interior ministry said.
Morocco shares no border with Mali. But that has not stopped al-Qaeda offshoot MUJAO from eyeing potential fighters from afar.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other regional terror organisations have intensified activities aimed at undermining stability in Morocco, the interior ministry confirmed in December.
"AQIM and its ally MUJAO (Movement for Tawhid and Jihad) are now attractive to Moroccan youth imbued with the philosophy of al-Qaeda," the ministry said in a statement last month.
Investigations by the judicial police and the Directorate General for Territorial Surveillance (DGST) had "proven" that terror groups were targeting young Moroccans, the ministry said.
The Moroccan government's comments came in response to a spate of successful security operations that dismantled several terror cells in just one month.
On December 26th, 27 suspects seized in Casablanca, Laayoune, Nador, Guercif and Kelaat Sraghna were arraigned on charges of sending more than 20 young Moroccans to join al-Qaeda and MUJAO in northern Mali.

A Malian national was among the Morocco AQIM cell suspects.
Morocco dismantled another terror cell a month earlier. Eight members of a new Ansar al-Sharia offshoot group were arrested in Rabat and other cities for allegedly plotting attacks against government buildings and tourist sites.
Dubbed "Ansar al-Sharia in the Islamic Maghreb", the cell was seeking "logistical support from its al-Qaeda allies in northern Mali", the interior ministry said.

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