Morocco Sentences Former Spanish Soldier to 8 Years for Planning “Terrorist Acts”

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Published Friday, February 20, 2015

A Moroccan court sentenced a former Spanish soldier to eight years in jail Friday for heading a cell that planned to carry out "terrorist acts" in the kingdom, the state-run MAP news agency reported.

Another 17 members of the group, broken up in January 2014, were jailed for between three and 10 years in connection with their activities, mostly in the north of the country.

The soldier had served in Melilla, one of two Spanish enclaves on Morocco's Mediterranean coast. Moroccan authorities said that after leaving the army, he joined al-Qaeda and fought in Afghanistan.

All 18 were charged with forming a criminal group for the purpose of carrying out acts of terrorism, as well as belonging to a banned religious organization and of holding public meetings without permission.

According to official figures, some 1,500 Moroccans are fighting or have fought in the ranks of jihadist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, and Rabat is actively engaged in seeking to dismantle militant cells.

Dozens of people have been jailed in recent months on charges of terrorism.

Morocco’s state prosecutor al-Hassan Eddaki said last week that the kingdom had prosecuted twice as many suspected jihadists in 2014 than in the previous year.

"The number of terrorism-related cases last year stood at 147, compared to 64 in 2013," Eddaki was quoted as saying by MAP on February 12.

In January, Morocco said it had dismantled an Islamist militant cell sending fighters to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and mount attacks on returning home.

The cell, the latest of series of radical groups authorities say they have uncovered, had been active in the city of Meknes and the towns of al-Hajeb and al-Hoceima in the Northern Rif mountains, the interior ministry said in a statement.

It said the head of the cell had been in contact with ISIS and had sent volunteers.

In September, the government approved a bill to tighten anti-terrorist legislation, aimed especially at stopping people from joining jihadist groups.

A month later, it boosted security across the kingdom to counter any threats.

The North African kingdom has suffered attacks in the past by militants. In 2011 a blast in a café in Marrakesh killed 15 people. It was the worst attack since 2003, when suicide bombings killed more than 45 people in Casablanca.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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