According to the Moroccan authorities, the alleged mastermind of the terrorist plot that was foiled on Sunday after one of the suicide bombers triggered his explosive belt in a cybercafé was arrested only hours before the incident.
According to our information, Abdelaziz Ben Zine (also spelled Ben Zyne), also known as Chafik, is a veteran of Afghanistan, and a long-time leader of the GICM (Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group).
Ben Zine was described by a former Emir of the GICM as being in charge of the administration of GICM. Ben Zine undertook a two-months training to explosive devices in Afghanistan provided in 2000 by Saad Houssaini, the GICM military chief arrested last week in Casablanca. He was also trained on techniques of command by Al Qaeda ideologue Abu Musab Al Suri (arrested in 2005). Ben Zine was tasked at the end of 2001 with Hassan El Haski – a GICM commander arrested in Spain in 2004 and indicted for the March 11 attacks in Madrid – to identify Moroccan religious leaders who support Jihad and recruit them. They were also assigned to select economic targets in which members of the group could invest to raise funds for the GICM, and to identify security weaknesses in Morocco to provide escape routes to GICM operatives.
The arrest of Ben Zine (described as Houssaini’s successor following his arrest last week), is a new indication that the GICM is currently mobilizing its operatives in the country to carry out terrorist attacks.
Indeed, the Moroccan authorities have also reportedly arrested Algerian Islamists in the Marrakech region, and others are wanted. The surge in the Islamists activities suggests that strategic coordination is at work with the former GSPC, now known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to carry out terrorist attacks. Marrakech has been the target of Islamic terrorism on August 24, 1994, when several Islamists, including GIA (ex-GSPC) members, carried out an attack on a hotel resulting in the death of two Spanish tourists, in one of the first terrorist action in the word attributed to the Afghan veterans.