Morocco foils a major terrorist plot (Updated)

On March 11, a major terrorist plot was foiled when Abdelfettah Raydi accidentally detonated his explosive belt in a cybercafé of Casablanca. Raydi’s accomplice, Youssef Khoudri, was injured and later arrested.

Click to view a video of the scene:
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According to the Moroccan State Prosecutor, twelve suicide bombers were prepared to take part in terrorist attacks targeting economic and administrative sites, including foreign ships docks at Casablanca’s port, hotels in Marrakech, Agadir and Essaouira, and other buildings including the police headquarters in Casablanca.

Twenty-four Islamists believed to be part of the plot have been charged. Several members of the cell, including Abdelfettah Raydi himself, were arrested in 2003 after the Casablanca bombings. They were released in November 2005 as part of a royal amnesty. One of them, Abdellatif Amrine was suspected as a “backup” bomber in Casablanca.

Investigators recovered 6.5 kg of TATP explosives, enough to produce 20 explosive belts, as well as several toxic substances. Terrorists had planned to use poison, including a tetanus pathogenic bacteria. The local press reported that a suspected member of the cell is a Moroccan engineer and director of a chemical company of Mohammedia, Cochimag SA, which specializes in fertilizers. This company has links to the now imprisoned high ranking member of the GICM (Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group) Saad Houssaini, who is an expert in explosives and chemical devices.

Most of the funding for the operation – estimated to $5,000 – was provided by a Moroccan businessman, Mohamed Talbi, and by the leader of the Ansar Al Mahdi group, a terrorist cell that was dismantled in August 2006. Fifty members of the cell, including its leader Hassan Khattab, an Afghan veteran, are currently jailed pending a trial in May.

After the Moroccan authorities reportedly arrested Algerian Islamists in the Marrakech region, details from Algeria suggest that there are operational connections and strategic coordination between Moroccan Islamists and the former GSPC, now known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The latest evidence of this was provided with the discovery of a scheme to import Moroccan trucks to Algeria, to be used by the GSPC for terrorist attacks there.

(Originally posted on April 4, 2007)

UPDATE:

Three potential suicide bombers killed themselves and one was killed today by security forces in Casablanca during the investigation into the March 11 bombing.

According to our sources, two of the suicide bombers, Mohamed Mentala and Mohamed Rachidi, were already wanted by the police for their involvement in the May 2003 bombings in Casablanca.

Mentala, who was born in 1975, was identified as a “backup” bomber in Casablanca by a suicide bomber who survived the attack and by another suspect. Three months after the Casablanca bombings of 2003, he formed a terrorist cell with several others, including 37 years old Mohamed Rachidi. The presumed leader of the cell, Youssef Addad, was sentenced to death in December 2006.

We’ve earlier reported that another backup bomber for the 2003 bombings in Casablanca had been indicted. Moroccan authorities are currently screening and interrogating tens of previously released terrorist suspects in the country in an effort to thwart a large scale terrorist attack.

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About JC Brisard

Jean-Charles Brisard

Jean-Charles Brisard is an international consultant, specialized in the financing of terrorist organizations.
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