The arrest of 24 alleged al Qaeda activists in Morocco has cast a rare spotlight on Islamic extremism in north-west Africa, a phenomenon that is troubling both the region’s governments and western intelligence agencies.
Morocco says it detained the al Qaeda group in a sweep that focused on the sprawling port city of Casablanca. Others arrested are from the towns of Birrichid and Kenitra, according to Association Annassir - a group that represents Islamist detainees in Morocco. Four had previously served prison terms for militant activity, the Association said.
The Interior Ministry alleged in a statement on Monday that the group was “preparing to carry out assassinations and acts of sabotage within the country, notably targeting the security services and foreign interests in Morocco."
Officials allege the group was also recruiting other Moroccans to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s not known whether any of those detained has been formally charged.