Morocco arrests 'all-female Islamic State cell'
An all-female Islamic State group cell which has planned suicide bombings across the country was discovered by Moroccan police, authorities said on Monday.
The group of 10 female militants allegedly pledged allegiance to IS and had "tried to obtain the chemicals used to make explosive belts," the interior ministry said, noting they were planning to attack "vital installations".
The women had built "close relationships with several Moroccan terrorists also affiliated with Daesh (and) based on the Syrian-Iraqi border," it said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
The cell was recruiting and training women in several parts of the country including the tourist hotspot of Tangiers and towns close to the capital Rabat, the ministry said.
In late September, four "dangerous" suspected operatives linked to the Islamic State group who were planning attacks across the country were arrested by authorities.
Investigators apprehended an individual in the northern city of Meknes who had been "planning terrorist attacks in Morocco," according to a statement from the interior ministry.
The suspect had "acquired vast experience in the manufacture of remote-detonated explosives" and was "about to procure essential materials to make" a bomb, it added.
A week earlier, three suspected extremists were arrested around Tangiers, in northern Morocco, reportedly in the process of preparing "extremely serious terrorist acts", the statement said.
Rabat says more than 150 "terrorist cells" have been uncovered since 2002, including dozens in the past three years with ties to jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
At least 1,200 Moroccans had travelled abroad to fight alongside IS in the previous 18 months, a study by the US-based Soufan Group said last December.
However, the kingdom, which espouses a moderate version of Islam, has largely been spared repeated jihadist violence that has in recent years swept other parts of the region, including nearby Libya.
But a 2003 attack in the economic capital Casablanca left 45 dead, while a 2011 attack at a tourist site in Marrakesh killed 17 people.