- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

From combined dispatches
RABAT, Morocco Morocco has dismantled a group that has been linked to al Qaeda and suspected of preparing suicide attacks on U.S. and allied warships in the Strait of Gibraltar, government and security service sources said yesterday.
Three Saudi nationals were picked up in mid-May and are believed to have confessed to planning to use Zodiac inflatable boats packed with explosives against NATO warships, according to the sources.
The wives of two of the Saudi men were arrested Monday, officials said yesterday. They are being interrogated with their husbands and the third Saudi national in connection with likely "criminal acts," said an official, who declined to be identified.
"The two young women were apparently married to Saudi nationals preparing terrorist attacks in the Mediterranean. They were aware of what the men were doing," the official said without giving their names and ages. According to one official, the suspects' ages ranged between 25 and 35.
A police official, who asked not to be named, said late Monday that the leader of the group, Abdallah el-Gareh, 32, had been picked up at the Casablanca airport and was still being questioned by police. One of the two women arrested was Mr. Gareh's Moroccan wife, officials said.
Police suspect the women were used as couriers between al Qaeda and its members in Morocco, an official said.
Moroccan security authorities have refused comment on the nature of the suspected terrorist operations, as well as on progress in police investigations.
Moroccan intelligence agents made the arrests after they were tipped off by the CIA to the group's presence, according to a police source.
A Western diplomat said that the Moroccans had been aware of the al Qaeda plans "for some time" and that they were in "the early stages" when the men were arrested.
An Arab diplomat said a police investigation was under way for several weeks and the arrests took place while the group was trying to leave the country from the Casablanca airport.
"The group was apparently ready for action," the diplomat said without elaboration.
The group members were moving freely between Casablanca, Rabat and its twin city Sale, he said.
But it was not known whether any explosives or other materials were seized by security forces when the arrests took place.
A Justice Ministry official said the five accused were expected to appear before a court by early next week at the latest.
The London Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that Britain's secret service warned the Royal Navy "weeks ago" of plans by al Qaeda terrorists in Morocco to attack U.S. and British naval vessels.


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