Moroccan police dismantle IS-linked cell

Moroccan authorities dismantled an alleged IS-linked ‘terror’ cell that was recruiting fighters to join militants in Syria and Iraq.

An alleged “terrorist cell” that was recruiting volunteers for the Islamic State group was dismantled by Moroccan authorities, officials said on Wednesday.

Seven members were captured as part of the IS-affiliated cell, which was active in the northern city of Fez and nearby town of Moulay Yacoub, an interior ministry statement said.

They “recruited and sent Moroccan volunteers to Iraq and Syria” where the militant group holds territory, it said.

Police seized bladed weapons, military uniforms, money and electronic equipment during the raid, and local reports claimed the brother of one the members was allegedly arrested in a similar previous raid and convicted for planning attacks in Europe.

Authorities have regularly announced the dismantling of IS cells and arrests of suspected militant recruiters in recent months.

The kingdom has been spared deadly militant attacks since a 2011 bombing in the central city of Marrakesh which killed 17 people, mainly European tourists.

Meanwhile, Iraqi military sources said the Islamic State group has lost two-thirds of its founding leaders, but a dangerous group of inexperienced unknowns have taken the helm in their place.

“Twenty of the members of the Shura council that elected Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi caliph in 2014 have been killed for example,” the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The New Arab correspondent.

He explained that security forces had a surplus of information about the originators of the militant group, but that as they have been killed off – mostly in US-led coalition air raids – a new generation of young unknowns have taken their place.

“We don’t know anything about these inexperienced fledgeling commanders,” the source said.

He said that a monthly budget of $1 million has been allocated to collecting information about the new IS leaders through monitoring their communications as well as via informants on the ground that have agreed to provide intel to the US.

IS now controls less than seven percent of Iraq, down from the 40 percent it held nearly three years ago, an Iraqi military spokesman said on Tuesday.

The militant group has also lost ground in Syria, and is currently fighting US-backed forces near Raqqa, the de facto capital of its self-styled Islamic caliphate.