- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

RABAT, Morocco (AP) - Moroccan authorities arrested three militants accused of recruiting fighters and funding groups linked to al-Qaida that are fighting against the government in Syria, an Interior Ministry statement said Monday.

Judicial police arrested two men in the city of Fez for collaborating with agents on the Turkey-Syria border to recruit men to fight with the al-Qaida-linked groups, while another man was arrested in the city of Mrirt accused of pirating bank cards to send money to such groups.

Al-Qaida continues to target Morocco, especially with Moroccan fighters that have received military training abroad and return to the country to commit terrorist acts,” said the ministry statement, emphasizing government fears that veterans from Syria might later carry out attacks.

Some 900 Moroccans journeyed to Syria to fight the government of Bashar Assad in 2013, according to a Hichem Baali, a prefect with the domestic security service interviewed on Moroccan TV on May 14. Most come from the cities Tangiers, Casablanca and Tetouan.

Around 100 Moroccans have been arrested upon their return from Syria, said Baali, adding that nine were convicted under the anti-terrorist law, three found innocent while the rest are still under investigation.

Moroccan authorities frequently announce the dismantling of small terrorist cells inspired by al-Qaida either planning attacks locally or recruiting Moroccans to fight abroad. The most recent cell found was in April.

Terrorist attacks have been rare in Morocco. On April 28, 2011, a bomb planted in a Marrakech restaurant frequented by tourists killed 17 people, mostly foreigners.