Anti-terrorist investigators in Morocco believe a French citizen was the brains behind an Al-Qaeda linked cell they smashed this month, a judicial source said Wednesday.
Investigators believe Moroccan-born Ahmed Sahnouni "is suspected of leading this cell from France," the source said, but gave no more details.
Police are searching for the man, following the arrest of 24 members of what the interior ministry on Monday described as a "terrorist network linked to Al-Qaeda" who were preparing to attack Moroccan interests.
The men were arrested in swoops in Casablanca, Berrechid and Kenitra around the middle of this month, the ministry said in Monday's statement.
It said they were led in Morocco by a man named Youssef Toubaie, but made no mention at the time of Sahnouni, or indeed a connection with France.
Four of those arrested had previously been jailed for terrorism offences in the kingdom.
The group recruited Moroccan "activists" to send to locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and the Sahel-Saharan zone, the ministry said, citing initial details from an inquiry led by a prosecutor.
"Candidates were preparing to leave for these regions," it said.
The judicial source said that among objects confiscated during a search of the men's possessions were documents preaching the doctrine of Salafia Jihadia (Radical Islam) as well as video recordings about previous jihadi opeations, mainly in the Sahel-Saharan region.
The north African branch of Osama Bin Laden's terror network, which calls itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is known to be active in the Sahel-Saharan region, a vast desert area covering southern Algeria, northern Mali, Niger and northeastern Mauritania.
Generally, Islamic activists arrested in Morocco belong to the extremist movement, Salafia Jihadia, according to local press reports.
AQIM is notorious for seizing Western hostages and killed one of them, Edwin Dyer, on May 31 last year when Britain refused to pay a ransom.
© 2010 AFP
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