The Moroccan Interior Ministry said Thursday alleged members of a jihadist cell arrested last month, including a French national, had been plotting to carry out “biological” attacks in the kingdom, Agence France-Presse reported. Members of the terrorist cell reportedly had prepared deadly substances with a plan to use them in terrorist projects.
“Some of the seized substances [from the suspects] are classified by international organizations which specialize in health issues as falling within the category of biological weapons dangerous for their capacity to paralyze and destroy the nervous system and cause death,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Late last month, authorities carried out arrests in several towns throughout Morocco, dismantling a terrorist cell of 10 people suspected of links to the Islamic State group. During the raids, ammunition and weapons were seized. Moroccan officials have claimed 152 terrorist cells have been busted since 2002. In the past three years, 31 of those terrorist cells had ties to militants in Iraq and Syria, the country said.
At least 1,200 Moroccans have traveled to fight alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria in the past 18 months, a study done by the U.S.-based Soufan Group found in December. Terrorism experts told International Business Times earlier this year Morocco is becoming increasingly vulnerable to Islamic State group threats.
Max Abrahms, an expert on terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa and an assistant professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston, said it’s clear “the power is shifting from the Persian gulf region to areas in Africa, some of which really aren’t that far from Morocco,” IBT previously reported. “Morocco is very well-placed for ISIS.”
Since ISIS claimed the lives of 59 foreign tourists in Tunisia last year, Morocco has been on high alert. The country’s economy relies heavily on tourism.