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Morocco Urges Stiff Penalties against Iraq "Recruiting Agents"
    2008-05-21 19:39:51     Xinhua
Moroccan prosecutors on Tuesday requested a court to impose prison sentences of up to 25 years against a group of 26 people, including a Swede of Moroccan origin, found guilty of acting as "recruiting agents" for Iraq, judicial sources said Wednesday.

"The prosecutor of the anti-terrorist tribunal has requested for a 25-year prison term against the Moroccan Khalid Ali Ould Tahar, 20 years imprisonment for six other people, including Ahmed Essafri, a 54-year old Swede of Moroccan origin, and 15 years for five other defendants," said a judicial officer under the cover of anonymity.

The prosecutor also appealed for 10 years imprisonment sentences against 12 more people and less than 5 years for the rest of the group, according to the same source.

Dismantled in 2007, the al Qaida-linked terror network was originally composed of 27 people, including one who died a natural death while in custody, according to security sources.

Two of the 26 alleged "recruiting agents" have been appearing for the hearings on bail since the beginning of the long-drawn trial in September 2007, said judicial sources, adding that there was a great likelihood that all the 26 people will be handed "very severe sentences."

The case against the 26 men is particularly related to the " recruitment of Moroccans for fighting in Iraq" and "constitution of criminal gang with the aim of preparing and committing terrorist acts," said the same sources.

They are, according to the accusations filed against them, members of a terrorist cell based in Tetouan, northern, which is described as a "terrorist structure with international ramifications specialized in the recruitment and delivery of volunteers (Moroccan) for fighting in Iraq."

The indictment alleges that the "cell" shares links with terrorist groups such as Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which in 2006 pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and changed its name to the al Qaida Branch in North Africa. 

Morocco, which had hitherto been spared by the specter of a terrorist wave sweeping across the North African region, has in recent years intensified war on international terrorism following a series of deadly bombings.

Earlier this week, Moroccan anti-terrorist operatives had announced the dismantling of a terror network involving a group of 11 people, whose mastermind is suspected to be a Moroccan-Belgian national, according to newspaper reports.

According to security sources both within and outside the kingdom, the group was in the final stages in its preparations to launch attacks against Moroccan and European Union interests, mainly in Brussels. 
 
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