As the Islamic state suffers its harshest losses in both Syria and Iraq, it started to send many of its leaders outside the region to create cells and recruit more fighters to help in achieving its goals. However, many of these cells were discovered and arrested in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
At the height of its power two years ago, Islamic State ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of Baghdad in Iraq.
It was the mosque of Mosul where al-Baghdadi declared his Caliphate and named himself as the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul’s Great Mosque after his forces swept through northern Iraq in 2014.
However, ISIS’s territory is shrinking rapidly since last year as the US-led coalition, the Turkish-backed forces, and the Russian-backed Assad regime forces have fierce fights against its forces in both Syria and Iraq.
The United States is providing air and ground support to Iraqi and Kurdish forces trying to dislodge the hardline group from Mosul.
Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19.
In addition, the Kurdish militias in Syria, backed by US coalition, launched also a campaign with the ultimate aim of capturing Raqqa in November and succeeded in encircling the city. Recently, they launched an assault on Deir Ezzor province to cut the road to Raqqa and surrounding ISIS effectively and were able to achieve this goal after fierce clashes.
These reasons pushed ISIS to seek establishing more cells outside in middle east in Europe, to able to survive if its forces in Syria and Iraq were defeated.
ISIS cell arrested in Morocco
Moroccan authorities said on Friday they had arrested 15 people suspected of ties with Islamic State in the latest raid officials say targeted militant networks.
The suspects had been active in Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangiers, and Agadir, among other cities, and were involved in inciting or threatening to carry out attacks, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by MAP state news agency.
“Certain individuals arrested acquired knowledge in making explosives and were in the process of acquiring material to make explosive charges to carry out terrorist operations targeting sensitive locations,” the statement said.
It said one suspect was conducting surveillance in Casablanca with the intention of creating a video claiming an attack in the name of Islamic State. Other suspects had attempted to acquire firearms to target public figures.
A Moroccan security source previously told Reuters the government believes nearly 2,000 Moroccans have fought in Syria’s war and in Iraq with Islamic State.
The source said around 200 were known to have returned home and all of them were arrested, mainly at the airport when their flights landed.
The North African kingdom has suffered attacks in the past by militants. In 2011 a blast in a cafe in Marrakesh killed 15 people including 10 foreigners. It was the worst attack since 2003, when suicide bombings killed more than 45 people in Casablanca.