DR Congo opposition demands new government before repatriating former leader’s body: Reuters

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Democratic Republic of Congo’s largest opposition party said on Wednesday it would not agree to bring home the body of its recently deceased leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, until President Joseph Kabila names a new power-sharing government, according to a report by Reuters newswire.

Tshisekedi, who died in Brussels last week aged 84, led Congo’s main opposition bloc during negotiations in December that resulted in a deal obliging Kabila to step down after elections this year.

His death has already sparked clashes between supporters and security forces in the capital Kinshasa, and further delays to the funeral would be likely to amplify tensions.

Kabila, in power since 2001, stayed on as president when his constitutional mandate expired on Dec. 19, sparking unrest that stoked fears of Congo sliding back into the anarchy and civil war of the turn of the century.

A security guard stands next to the coffin of Democratic Republic of Congo's late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi during a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium February 5, 2017. /REUTERS

A security guard stands next to the coffin of Democratic Republic of Congo’s late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi during a ceremony in Brussels, Belgium February 5, 2017. /REUTERS

In a statement, Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) made the return of his body conditional on all funeral costs being picked up by the forthcoming unity government.

Implementation of the power-sharing deal has stalled over disagreements between Kabila’s ruling coalition and the opposition over the composition of the government, which Tshisekedi’s son Felix is tipped to lead.

Kabila’s government has offered to pay for a state funeral but has said it is unreasonable to install the new administration before Tshisekedi is buried.

The UDPS also said that Tshisekedi, a former prime minister under President Mobutu Sese Seko, must be buried in a mausoleum in the centre of Kinshasa.

 

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Tanzania to seek German reparations over colonial acts: AP report

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Tanzania’s government is considering legal action to force former coloniser Germany to pay reparations for alleged atrocities committed over a century ago, the country’s defence minister has told the Associated Press news service.

The government will seek compensation over tens of thousands of people who allegedly were starved, tortured and killed by German forces while trying to put down rebellious tribes, minister Hussein Mwinyi told lawmakers.

“We will consider steps taken by Kenya and Namibia governments in seeking reparations from Britain and German governments, respectively,” he said.

Germany ruled Tanzania, then known as Tanganyika, from 1890 to 1919.

There was no immediate response from the German embassy in Tanzania.

Germany also faces reparation claims in another former African colony, Namibia.

In January, Germany said it may make payments to Namibia for the killing of 65 000 people during its colonial occupation, an episode that is seen by some as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Talks with Namibia’s government were continuing on the issue.

In Tanzania, German forces were accused of crimes including forced starvations following the tribal revolt known as Maji Maji.

Askari soldiers in Tanzania fighting on the side of Germany during the WW1 East Africa campaign

Askari soldiers in Tanzania fighting on the side of Germany during the WW1 East Africa campaign

If Tanzania’s government presses for reparations, the East African country would be following the recent example of neighbouring Kenya, where a group of elderly Kenyans won compensation from the British government for acts of torture blamed on British colonial officials.

In 2013, the British government said it “sincerely regrets” the acts of torture carried out against Kenyans fighting for liberation from colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s. It also paid about $21.5m to the 5 200 Kenyans who were found to have been tortured, or about $4 100 per Kenyan victim.

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Radical Islamic attacks rising in DR Congo

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A disturbing new trend is on the rise in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, radical islamic attacks on civilians.

That’s according to an in depth report by the IBTimes news service from the UK.

The Ugandan-led Islamist armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-Nalu), may be looking to establish a caliphate in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it has operated since the late 1990s, according to the report by IBTimes.

The merger between puritanical Muslim Ugandans from the Sunni Islamic missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (Nalu), was masterminded by Ugandan rebel leader Jamil Mukulu in western Uganda after they found themselves marginalised following the fall of the dictator Idi Amin.

Pushed out of Uganda, the religious crusaders settled in the dense forest of DRC’s eastern borderlands during former President Mobutu Sese Seko’s reign (1965-1997).

Three decades down the line, the mysterious rebel group is reported to be using terror tactics of abductions and killings to establish a caliphate in the eastern province of North Kivu, where fighters claim to own land.

“They told us that these lands belong to them, that they have documents proving that they had bought [the lands] around Beni during the Mobutu era,” Adam Kyala Lungalunga, 59, who was kidnapped in November told IBTimes UK, “they want to claw back the authority of these lands.”

Beni-based Nicaise Kibel Bel Oka, editor of the newspaper Les Coulisses recently claimed the ADF were exercising “barbarity in the name of sharia law” – the Islamic law. “Islamic terrorism is already very fierce [in the region],” Bel Oka said, adding that the rebels refer to their base as ‘Medina’

A burial near the town of Beni for victims of an ADF attack

A burial near the town of Beni for victims of an ADF attack

While he agreed with the editor’s depiction of “the dawn of Jihad in DRC”, the president of the civil society of Beni who has been recording some of the worst massacres in the country’s recent history, Kizito Bin Hangi, said little was known about the coordination of the regional groups, populated by thousands of Ugandans, Tanzanians, Rwandans and Congolese fighters.

The identity of the ADF’s leader also remains a mystery. “When ADF fighters are arrested here, they never reveal who is in charge,” Bin Hangi told IBTimes UK. “We don’t know who heads the groups, we don’t know who is providing them with funding or weapons.”

“It’s difficult to confirm exactly what their goal is, but if you look at their modus operandi, it’s easy to say they are looking to establish their Islamist movement using terror as a means to control the population,” the civil society leader said, adding that the Islamists’ control over large swathes of land is facilitated by the chaos that prevails around Beni, Lubero, and West of Beni. “There is this entire zone just outside of Beni that is inaccessible as they have total control.”

Beyond ideology, the ADF groups are reported to be seeking to “exploit natural resources under the North Kivu’s fertile ground”, and are enlisting the local population to work in illegal mines in this region rich in coltan, a metallic ore.

Unlike other armed groups in the region, who only conscript fighters by force, Bin Hangi said ADF groups use local Congolese touts who trick local residents into becoming recruits. “Those Congolese men recruit civilians right in the city, in villages by promising jobs such as cultivating land or looking for gold in exchange for money. Those recruiters are ADF ’employees’: for instance, a recruiter manages to convince five or six local residents, who he brings to the bush. As soon as they are in the forest, he receives money from the ADF,” Bin Hangi explained.

After people are taken to the bush, ADF will deny ever promising them jobs, disorientate them and force them to pledge allegiance to their movement. “Those who refuse to adhere are killed. Those who accept are used as soldiers,” he added.

Like many Islamist sub-groups operating in East Africa and across the Sahel, Bin Hangi confirmed that ADF recruit children, “In their ranks we know that there are children. When they can’t recruit them using deceit, they kidnap them by force. We have documented how pupils are kidnapped on their way to school or in the schools. That’s how children are enrolled in these groups.”

Angela, a survivor of an ADF raid on her village, in which her two younger brothers, aged 15 and 18, were slaughtered in front of her during the attack in August 2015, confirmed the youngest attackers must have been eight or nine.

Recently, Rogatien Vagheni, who lives in Mutwanga, in the Ruwenzori sector, confirmed three children were kidnapped in his village. “The children were between the ages of eight and 15,” he told IBTimes UK. “The children were fortunately released after their families agreed to pay money to the captors. The children told us they were taken by force by those armed groups.”

Referring to numerous other witnesses, whose testimony confirms the ADF’s use of force to recruit young children, Bin Hangi added: “These kidnappings also happen when the children are in the fields [cultivating] with their parents, all of a sudden these armed men fall on them and take them away.”

Since 2014, the national army (FARDC), with the support of the the United Nations peacekeeping mission to DRC – MONUSCO – have launched an offensive against the ADF-Nalu.

(Report by Elsa Buchanan for IBTimes UK)

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US envoy indicates UN peacekeeping contributions to be cut

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Washington’s new UN envoy Nikki Haley is putting in motion a far-reaching review of UN peacekeeping that is likely to lead to closures and downsizing of missions, according to diplomats who spoke with Agence France Presse (AFP).

Haley took up her post with a vow to overhaul the United Nations and “do away” with what she termed as “obsolete” activities amid fresh clamor in Washington over US funding for the world body.

During one-on-one meetings with Security Council ambassadors this week, the new US envoy raised peacekeeping as a priority for cuts, zeroing in on the UN’s flagship enterprise, according to three diplomats with knowledge of the discussions.

“On UN reform, I think there is a particular interest in peacekeeping,” said a Security Council diplomat.

Haley is setting up a mission-by-mission review of all 16 peace operations and is “relatively skeptical” of the value and efficiency of many of the blue-helmet deployments, said the diplomat, who spoke on background to AFP.

A senior Security Council diplomat told AFP that peacekeeping reform was “a priority” for the new US ambassador “who wants to work closely with key partners on the issue in the coming weeks.”

While the United States has few soldiers serving as peacekeepers, it is by far the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, providing nearly 29 percent of the $7.9 billion budget for 2017.

During hearings at the US Senate last month, Haley made clear she was seeking to bring the US share of funding for peacekeeping to below 25 percent and said other countries should step in to shoulder the burden.

“We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game,” she said.

No list has been drawn up of missions that are to be axed, but diplomats said UN missions in Haiti and Liberia are probably headed for a rapid shutdown.

The last remaining UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast will pull out in June while the Security Council renewed the UNMIL mission in Liberia until March 2018 with the understanding that this would be the final year.

UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous is traveling to Haiti next week to carry out an assessment that could pave the way for a closure.

For now, diplomats are welcoming the US scrutiny and agree that while some missions are operating in difficult political environments — Haiti, Cyprus or Kosovo for example — there is no major threat of conflict in those areas.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (left) with new US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (left) with new US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley

At the Senate hearing, Haley questioned the decision to send peacekeepers to South Sudan, citing opposition from President Salva Kiir’s government, even though some 200,000 civilians are sheltering in UN bases.

There should be clear exit strategies, she argued, and new missions should be authorized only if there is a “secure base to start with.”

“Our goal should be to go in, keep the peace, get it settled and get out,” she said.

The peacekeeping review could have serious implications for stability in Africa. Nine of the UN’s 16 peacekeeping missions are deployed on the continent.

A decrease in US funding could open up the door for China — the second largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping and Africa’s number one trading partner — to bolster its role.

China’s share of the UN peacekeeping budget now stands at 10.3 percent followed by Japan (9.7 percent), Germany (6.4 percent), France (6.3 percent) and Britain (5.8 percent).

The biggest and most costly mission is the 22,000-strong MONUSCO force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been deployed for 18 years and has an annual budget of $1.2 billion that some say could be downsized.

The joint UN-African Union mission in Sudan’s Darfur region (UNAMID) is singled out as a costly and ineffective operation because it has been repeatedly blocked by the Sudanese government.

But analyst Aditi Gorur said funding cuts to UN missions in South Sudan, DR Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali “would likely be a death sentence for thousands of people, and would undo a huge amount of progress toward peace deals.”

“The bottom line is that UN peacekeeping is a bargain for the US government,” said Gorur, director of the Protecting Civilians in Conflict Program at the Washington-based Stimson Center.

“It advances the national interest by promoting peace and stability at a fraction of the cost of what the US would have to spend on its own.”

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African leaders agree to new joint counter-terrorism force

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Troops from five Sahel countries plan to set up a new counter-terrorism force in the region, where jihadist activity is growing, according to a report by France 24 news.

The announcement came as leaders from the Sahel G5 states — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger — met in Bamako to discuss the areas perilous security situation.

The meeting came almost three years to the day since the area’s deadliest attack; a suicide bombing in the Malian city Gao. 80 people were killed in that attack.

“To better combat terrorism in G5 countries, we have decided to implement the creation of a G5 force,” President Mahmadou Issoufou of Niger told a press conference.

There was no word on the number of troops the force would have or where they would be stationed.

Issoufou said a United Nations resolution and Security Council approval would be requested before the force could be formed.

Chadian President Idriss Deby said European nations would be asked for aid for the transnational project.

“What we want is for European countries to give us the means. We are going to be on the front line ourselves in the fight against terrorism,” said Deby, speaking as current G5 chief.

Some 3,500 French troops are already stationed in the Sahel region as part of counter-terror efforts against an increasingly nimble array of Islamist groups, some of which are aligned with Al-Qaeda.

Malian soldiers on patrol in the Sahel (courtesy AFP)

Malian soldiers on patrol in the Sahel (courtesy AFP)

Hundreds of Europeans too are serving with the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeper force stationed in Mali, which has become the UN’s most dangerous operation in two decades with 70 lives lost.

The new G5 deployment would “save the lives of (European) soldiers”, Deby added.

The Chadian leader said earlier in the day that the Sahel region risked becoming “a space for terrorists” unless immediate, co-ordinated action was taken.

“The multiplication of terrorist attacks in the Sahel” shows the threat “has new proportions”, Deby warned.

Chad and Niger are currently battling Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, while jihadists in late 2015 and early 2016 struck tourist spots in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

Experts say attacks mounted by jihadists and armed groups are on the rise and are increasingly targeting civilians in the largely desert zone.

January’s deadly attack in the northern Malian city of Gao was claimed by Algerian jihadist and Al-Qaeda ally Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Northern Mali was described as a “known hideout for terrorists” in an internal G5 document seen by Agence France Presse (AFP).

“It is also a launchpad for attacks against other countries,” the document said.

“We need to co-ordinate our efforts to rise up to the challenge,” said Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, whose nation is struggling with jihadists who use its vast northern stretches as a launchpad for attacks.

Mauritania was once plagued by Islamist attacks within its borders, but has made significant security gains.

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DR Congo elections increasingly unlikely

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says an increase in rebel activity in the east of the country could result in the government backing out of its commitment to a political succession plan that would see President Joseph Kabila step down and pave the way for elections.

The political agreement defused unrest prompted by his failure to step down as his mandate ended in December.

However, in a letter to the president of the U.N. Security Council, Congo’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ignace Gata Mavita, detailed a series of M23 incursions that began in November and accelerated last month.

“It goes without saying that this situation risks diverting the attention of the government, which would have to devote available financial means to face this war,” he wrote to Sweden’s Olof Skoog, the council’s president for January, in a letter dated Jan. 27 and seen by Reuters on Friday.

He said the fiscal strain would imperil the political agreement and “perturb the electoral process itself”.

Lack of money was one of the reasons cited by Kabila’s government for its failure to hold elections last year as scheduled.

A political deal to hold elections is on the verge of collapse in DRC

A political deal to hold elections is on the verge of collapse in DRC

M23 was eastern Congo’s most powerful rebel group until its defeat by Congolese and U.N. forces in 2013. Many of its fighters fled into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, where they have been kept in camps.

The rebels accuse Kinshasa of dragging its feet on promises to repatriate them under the terms of a peace deal.

The Congolese army this week said M23 fighters had captured four of the crew of a military helicopter that crashed, and that three had died after being tortured, according to a report by Reuters.

Gata Mavita asked the Security Council to condemn what he said was M23’s violation of the peace agreement. He also asked it to request that Rwanda and Uganda facilitate the return of rebels remaining on their territory to Congo for disarmament.

An M23 resurgence could spark wider conflict in a mineral-rich region that is an ethnic tinderbox straddling national regional borders, and has seen decades of war.

But any delay to this year’s election timetable could also reignite unrest in the capital Kinshasa, where dozens died last year during violent protests against Kabila.

The Catholic bishops who brokered the election agreement said last month that it could unravel unless politicians quickly reached compromises on its implementation, and the death of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi on Wednesday has added a further element of uncertainty.

In an unrelated development, police in southwestern DRC have confirmed they killed at least eight members of a separatist religious sect, local activists said, escalating tensions in a normally peaceful part of a conflict-ravaged country.

The police opened fire on members of Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) as they approached the morgue in the town of Kimpese to recover the bodies of fellow members killed in protests last month, according to a report by Reuters.

“There were 12 deaths, including three children”, said Jonas Lukoki, the provincial coordinator of the New Civil Society,.

A police spokesman told Reuters that several people had been killed when BDK members clashed with the police in Kimpese but did not have further details.

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African leaders plan mass withdrawal from international criminal court: Report

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African leaders have adopted a strategy calling for a collective withdrawal from the international criminal court. The non-binding decision came behind closed doors near the end of an African Union summit, according to The Guardian newspaper.

It is the latest expression of impatience by African leaders with the court, which some say has focused too narrowly on Africa while pursuing cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Last year South Africa, Burundi and The Gambia all announced plans to leave the court, leading to concerns that other states would follow.

Desire Assogbavi, head of Oxfam International’s liaison office to the summit, confirmed the adoption of the strategy. A source close to the continental body’s legal council also confirmed it, saying countries had been divided on whether to call for leaving the court individually or together.

The source said the majority of countries also wanted the meaning of immunity and impunity amended in the Rome Statute, the treaty that set up the court in 2002. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

ICC

Some African countries have been especially critical of the ICC for pursuing heads of state. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has been wanted by the court since 2009 for allegedly orchestrating atrocities in Darfur. The ICC also caused an uproar among some African nations by indicting Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity for 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 died. The case collapsed because of what the ICC prosecutor called lack of cooperation by Kenya’s government.

Elise Keppler with Human Rights Watch’s international justice programme said the ICC withdrawal strategy has no timeline and “few concrete recommendations for action”. She pointed out that several African countries, including Nigeria, Senegal and the Republic of Congo, have spoken up in support of the ICC in recent months.

A draft of the strategy, obtained by the Associated Press, recommends that African countries strengthen their own judicial mechanisms and expand the jurisdiction of the African court of justice and human rights “in order to reduce the deference to the ICC”.

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Thought Leadership: The real crime is their working hours

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In East Africa, it’s not uncommon for employees such as security guards to clock up over 70 hours of work each week. This punishing schedule is bad news for workers and for business too.

A security guard employed in East Africa typically works in 12-hour shifts for six days of the week. With journeys to and from work often totalling two hours, this effectively results in 16-hour days. This overloaded schedule leaves virtually no time for a meal, proper rest or personal administration. Night guards commonly use what should be sleep time for catching up on personal matters.

Overworking can arise not only through employers setting long hours in contracts, but also because of low pay driving workers to maximise their hours to supplement incomes. This can come in the form of overtime and in some cases, moonlighting in other jobs. The potential strains and knock-on effects of excessive work hours are manifold. The immediate damage is to the health and well-being of employees. There is no shortage of evidence for the personal and family deterioration that can result from overwork and insufficient rest. But the impacts knock back on companies too.

We have seen numerous cases of excellent guards whose performance has nosedived through exhaustion. Too tired and distracted to do an effective job, good work habits slip and guards become a danger to themselves and to clients. We have also seen guards who have absconded because of a welfare-related problem. A family sickness or a bereavement can require that a guard makes time to attend and, moreover, to find the money to pay or contribute for healthcare or funeral expenses. A desperate scenario like this can lead to a guard’s sudden departure and the theft of money or property.

The solution is a reasonable expectation of working hours, combined with fair pay and a comprehensive staff welfare system. Some governments have enshrined the resistance against excessive working hours in legislation, and this can be a useful starting point for establishing company policy. The UK’s Work Time Regulations 2012 (WTR 2012) guarantee employees a period of 24 hours’ uninterrupted rest per week (or, at the employer’s choice, 48 hours per fortnight), an unbroken daily rest period of 11 hours and a rest break of 20 minutes when a day’s working time exceeds six hours. Its regulations also limit the normal working hours of night workers to an average of eight hours in a 24-hour period, with an entitlement to receive regular health assessments.

We would add that in order for staff to work unencumbered by personal stresses they should be granted time in the week — outside of the work and resting hours — to carry out personal administration. This creates an invaluable space for tending to everyday matters, especially when personal issues arise. Our experience is that this measure boosts welfare, improves staff retention and reduces the risk of abscondence.

Pushing guards to sustain overly long working weeks has unacceptable costs for staff and their families — but its a false economy too. A happy, rested workforce is also a productive and loyal one so promoting a positive work-life balance among employees is a benefit not just to them but to employers and clients too. That’s a win-win-win situation.

Warrior Security CEO

Tony Sugden

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US reinforces commitment to battling insecurity in East Africa

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The United States is publicly reinforcing its support for helping provide stability and security in East Africa.

U.S. Embassy representatives from eight East African nations joined military leaders from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), in Djibouti for the 2017 East Africa Security Synchronization Conference.

The two-day event provided an opportunity to discuss the security environments of each country.

AFRICOM Commander Gen. Thomas Waldhauser stressed the importance of aligning regional military priorities with that of host countries.

AFRICOM Commander Gen. Thomas Waldhauser (left) with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa commander Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag

AFRICOM Commander Gen. Thomas Waldhauser (left) with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa commander Maj. Gen. Kurt Sonntag

East African countries have become concerned with the uncertainty surrounding continued US support for the region because of a potential shift in Africa policy by President Donald Trump.

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Islamic State attack thwarted in Morocco

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A top Moroccan security official says jihadists linked to the Islamic State group arrested this week had planned to attack embassies and tourist sites, according to a report by Agence France Presse (AFP).

Seven members of a “dangerous cell” were arrested in an early morning operation in five different cities and “other suspects are on the run”, said Abdelhak Khiam who heads Morocco’s anti-terrorism security service.

He told a press conference that the group’s chief, calling himself an “emir” was among those arrested, and that he had sought to set up a branch of IS in the kingdom.

Khiam said the man had received “financing and weapons from members of the Libyan branch of IS”.

This cell was “determined to take action” against “diplomatic representations, tourist sites and public figures”, he said, in “coordination with IS members from the Syria-Iraq area and Libya”, according to AFP.

The suspects were aged between 20 and 29.

Moroccan anti-terrorism agents display weapons seized from the IS cell

Moroccan anti-terrorism agents display weapons seized from the IS cell

Reporters were shown seized weapons and equipment including seven handguns and a machinegun that Khiam said “came from Libya and were transported via the border with Algeria”.

Two military jackets “containing explosives products” were also recovered.

Several suspects were apprehended in a rented apartment in the city of El Jadida.

In a statement, Morocco’s interior ministry said it intended to strengthen controls on the renting of furnished properties.

“It has been discovered that some terrorist groups and organised crime groups have rented houses or apartments whose owners in several cases did not inform the authorities,” the statement said.

This “helps suspects conceal themselves and prepare acts of sabotage,” it warned, urging owners “to notify the authorities of tenants’ identities”, on pain of prosecution for complicity.

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