At a briefing on Jan. 5, the minister said the AQIM cell was comprised of 27
members, all of them arrested. He said the cell, linked to Islamic networks
in Europe, was directed by AQIM to conduct attacks throughout Morocco.
Officials said security forces found three weapons caches that belonged
to the cell near Amghala in Western Sahara. They said the weapons included
30 AK-47 assault rifles, three submachine guns, two RPG-7 rocket-propelled
grenade launchers as well as munitions.
The interior minister said the cell was directed by an unnamed Moroccan
based in AQIM camps in Mali. Cherkaoui said the cell planned to conduct
suicide attacks, including car bombings.
Financing for the AQIM-led cell was said to have been conducted through
money-laundering and bank robberies. Officials said several attempts to rob
banks and money changers took place in Casablanca and Rabat.
"The leaders of AQIM entrusted one of its members residing in northern
Mali with this mission," Cherkaoui said.
The Al Qaida network was also said to have sent members to AQIM training
camps in Algeria and Mali. Officials said the recruits were meant to spend
several months learning bomb assembly, combat skills and intelligence work
before returning to Morocco for operations.
Over the last year, Algeria has acknowledged increasing cooperation
between AQIM and Polisario. Algerian officials said the cooperation was
mostly in the area of drug and weapons smuggling.