World News

Morocco arrests seven on suspicion of Islamic State ties

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco said on Friday its security forces had arrested a group of seven suspected Islamist militants linked to Islamic State, including the group’s leader, who has been recruiting fighters.

The North African kingdom, an ally of the West against Islamist militancy, has been on high alert since 2014, when IS took control of large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria.

The Islamist group, the latest of a series that the authorities say they have found plotting attacks inside and outside the country, had been active in the town of Dar Bouazza, near Casablanca, they said.

The group had been in contact with IS in Iraq and Syria and had tried to send fighters there for training so that they could return to carry out attacks on Moroccan soil, the interior ministry said in a statement.

“Investigations showed that the leader of the group had solid contacts with commanders of IS on the ground in Iraq and Syria,” the statement said.

The government believes 2,000 Moroccan nationals are fighting with armed groups in Syria and Iraq. About 220 have returned home and been jailed and 286 have been killed.

Morocco has suffered a number of bomb attacks by suspected Islamist fighters, most recently in 2011 in Marrakesh.

Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Hugh Lawson