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Friday, January 21, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Morocco: Soldiers bribed to allow smuggling
by Al Qaida to Western Sahara

CAIRO — Morocco has acknowledged corruption within its security forces.


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 territory.

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.

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