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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06RABAT1632 2006-09-01 18:46:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

MOROCCO TIGHTENS AIRPORT SECURITY

Tags:   EAIR MO PINR PTER 
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1. (C) The arrest of four women, two married to pilots of
the national carrier Royal Air Maroc, has resulted in
increased security measures at all Moroccan airports. The
women were arrested for involvement in the Ansar Al Mahdi
terrorist cell, initially broken-up by Moroccan security
forces on August 8. As a result of the arrest of the women
on August 29, and their connection with Royal Air Maroc, the
National Committee for Aviation Security met on August 31 to
discuss and implement increased security measures.



2. (C) In a meeting with EconOff on September 1,
Abdelouahab Yaalaoui, Director of Civil Aviation, Ministry of
Transportation and Public Works, explained that the two
pilots have been grounded and denied access to both Royal Air
Maroc and Moroccan airport facilities. He added that an
investigation into their involvement is on-going. Referring
to increased security measures implemented at the airports,
he said special treatment afforded dignitaries has been
terminated, and that all passengers must pass through the
same line and undergo the same procedures. In addition, all
luggage is checked twice, first by hand and then by x-ray,
and all electronic equipment (cell phones, cameras, etc.)
must pass through the x-ray machines during passenger
screening. He also mentioned that security along airport
perimeters and within the airport grounds has been increased
by augmenting the number of guards, agents, and dogs. When
asked how long the increased measures would remain in effect,
Yaalaoui replied indefinitely.



3. (C) The Ansar Al Mahdi network is allegedly headed by
Lahssen El Khattab, a former member of the outlawed extremist
group Salfiya Jihadiya (Salafi Jihad). He had been arrested
after the May 16, 2003 Casablanca bombings and spent two
years in prison before being pardoned by the King. In open
press reporting, Khattab allegedly recruited Emir Yassine El
Ouerdini to head the group's military wing, which was
allegedly preparing to commit a series of terrorist military
operations. Among these plans was a plan to blow-up the Sale
airbase by targeting fuel depots. To date, more than 50
arrests have been made since August 8 in connection with the
Ansar Al Mahdi cell.
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RILEY