The Interior Ministry has reported the arrest of Moroccan soldiers
allegedly bribed to allow smuggled goods into the disputed region of Western
Sahara. The ministry said five soldiers facilitated the flow of weapons and drugs
for Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
"The soldiers facilitated smuggling for the traffickers from their
surveillance post that they had been assigned to guard in exchange for money
without even checking the nature of the smuggled products packed in boxes
and transported by camels," Interior Minister Tayeb Cherqaoui said.
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At a briefing on Jan. 12, Cherqaoui displayed weapons found in an
alleged AQIM cache in Western Sahara. The ministry said the detained
soldiers came from the 59th infantry regiment of Amgala and that the investigation of the
smuggling scandal would continue.
The bribery was alleged to have bolstered an AQIM cell of 27
operatives that operated in Western Sahara. The operatives, all of whom were
arrested, have been charged with planning attacks in Morocco and abroad.
Morocco controls about 80 percent of Western Sahara, an area of 266,000
square kilometers. The Algerian-backed Polisario rules the rest of the
This marked the first time in years that Morocco acknowledged and
detailed corruption within the military and security forces. Over the last
five years, authorities have arrested military officers and other prominent
Moroccans allegedly linked to Al Qaida.
Officials said the AQIM network contained 30 AK-47 Kalashnikov assault
rifles and two rocket-propelled grenade systems. They said the network
received weapons transported by camels from Western Sahara.