January 8, 2010 / 5:56 AM / 10 years ago

Moroccan court jails 14 militant Islamists: report

RABAT (Reuters) - Fourteen members of an Islamist radical group which seeks to spread jihad, or holy war, to Spain’s Andalusia region were jailed on Thursday for plotting attacks against Moroccan targets, state news agency MAP said.

A criminal court in Sale, the twin city of Rabat, sentenced Rachid Zerbani, the leader of the Fath al Andalus (Andalusia Conquest) group to 15 years in prison, the agency added, quoting a court statement.

The 13 other members received sentences of four to 10 years for charges that included stockpiling explosives for attacks on state targets, collecting money to buy weapons and undermining state security and public order.

Court officials were not immediately available to confirm the report.

MAP said the cell had links with other radical Islamists in neighbouring Algeria and Mauritania as well as in France, Spain and countries in the Middle East.

The cell had planned to blow up unspecified tourism landmarks in the southern Atlantic city of Agadir and a Moroccan military barracks in Laayoune, the main city in Western Sahara, MAP added.

Morocco has been on alert against radical Islamists since 2003 when suicide bombings killed 45 people in Casablanca.

Police in the north African country say they have broken more than 60 cells of Islamist extremists since then, with over 2,000 jailed following trials.

Some of the other busted cells have names linked to Andalusia like Jound al Andalus (Soldiers of Andalusia) or Taliaa al Andalus (Advanced Guards of Andalusia).

Andalusia is a rallying cause for Islamist extremists in Morocco and elsewhere who want to return the territory to Muslim rule.

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