RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan police have arrested three people suspected of belonging to a militant cell with ties to the Islamic State group, the interior ministry said on Thursday.
The cell, the latest in a series of Islamist militant groups the authorities say they have uncovered, and the second to be dismantled after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, had been active in the central cities of Fez and Casablanca and the southern town of Oula Taima, a ministry statement said.
The group, which includes a woman, was planning to carry out dangerous attacks against the kingdom, the ministry said. It gave no further details.
Hundreds of fighters from Morocco and other Maghreb nations, such as Tunisia, have joined Islamist militant forces in the conflict in Iraq and Syria, and also in Libya. Some are threatening to return to carry out attacks and recruit more jihadis in their home countries, security experts say.
A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with plastic explosive blew up a presidential guard bus in downtown Tunis on Tuesday, killing at least 12 troops in an attack claimed by Islamic State militants.
Around 1,500 Moroccan nationals are fighting with armed groups in Syria and Iraq, 220 have returned home and been jailed and 286 have been killed, authorities said earlier this year.
Morocco, a Western ally against Islamist militancy, has suffered bomb attacks by suspected Islamist fighters, most recently in 2011 in Marrakesh.
Moroccan security officials provided information that helped French police in their raid in the Paris suburb of St. Denis last week, sources say. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected Islamic State mastermind of the Paris attacks, was killed in the raid.
Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Richard Balmforth