Al-Qaeda Plot Against Tourist Hotels in Morocco Busted Up
2 Suspects had fought in Iraq
Al-Zaman/ AFP: Moroccan security agencies said Saturday that they had foiled a attempt by al-Qaeda to attack buildings belonging to the government as well as hotels frequented by foreign tourists. Two of the plotters had Belgian citizenship but were of Moroccan heritage. They were Khalid Ouzigh and Muhammad Raha, and both of them had fought in Iraq against US forces there! Two others, Ibrahim Bin Shakroun and Muhammad Mazouz, had previously been held in the US detention center at Guantanamo.
One of the 18 was released. Those arrested were between 22 and 25 years of age and have been sent to a prison in Sale.
One security official said, “If it were not for the vigilance of our service and the cooperation with European nations, Morocco would have witnessed a bloody month . . . This is the most dangerous terrorist case in Morocco since the string of attacks that struck Casablanca in May 2003, since elements from abroad attempted to infiltrate the kingdom to prepare the assuaults.”
The two Belgian Iraq veterans were apprehended in Casablanca. They had traveled to Morocco “to enlist members for the sake of creating a terrorist structure.” The official alleged that Muhammad Raha had fought in Iraq, then lived in Syria, and maintains close relationships with radical Muslims in Morocco and in Europe.” They wanted, he said, to create a cell of al-Qaeda in Morocco, then to head toward Algeria to contact the terrorist movements there.
Malikah Azara, the mother of one of the detainees, Umar Takhsawi, expressed surprise at his arrest. She said that there had been nothing in his comportment to provoke suspicion. But she admitted that he had changed recently, had grown a beard and begun buying “religious books.”
Police said that the two former inmates at Guantanamo had been arrested when they were observed helping a member of al-Qaeda sneak into Morocco. (One supposes that it was one of the two Belgians. One suspects that former Gitmo prisoners in Morocco pretty much have live-in secret police, and if the jihadis coming from Iraq had one of these former prisoners as their contact, they were doomed the moment they set foot in Casa.)
It is really good news that the arrests were apparently made possible in part because of good cooperation between Morocco and European anti-terror agencies.
A Moroccan judge remanded the 17 Muslim radicals arrested earlier in November for further depositions in early December. This is presumably an Agence France Presse report.
At least according to google.news, very few US newspapers picked up this story. I fear that nothing has been learned at all from September 11, and the failures of the US media pointed to by Tom Fenton are continuing on their merry way. The arrest of 17 al-Qaeda-type plotters who may have been going after tourist hotels should have been front page news in the United States. That they got combat experience fighting in Iraq is extremely worrisome and probably is a harbinger of the next generation of terrorist threats to the US and its allies. The sooner the US can get its gound troops out of Iraq, the sooner it will stop unwittingly training terrorists. This is one of those stories about the canary dying as the miner descends into the mine. If the rest of us miners don’t hear about it, we’re likely to go on down; and not come back up.
La Gazette du Maroc [in French] interviews Abdellatif Amrine, a Salafi arrested in a sweep after the May, 2003, bombings in Casablanca by al-Salafiyah al-Jihadiyah. He has recently been pardoned, and, like everyone in prison, says he was innocent. He is interesting on how it is a mistake to lump the various small radical Muslim groups together or to assume that they are linked. I had assumed that there were links between the Casablanca bombers and the Madrid cell, but he seems to be denying this. I found it interesting that in French Amrine refers to suicide bombers as “kamikazes.” It is worth thinking about as a term of art that gets away from any connotation of it having some special link with Islam.