Moroccan police have launched a manhunt for 40 suspected al Qaeda collaborators. Top of the wanted list are Hmam Bilal and Bel Hachmi Mohamed Rida who are accused of having ties with the Algerian-based al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb.
European specialists have been brought in to help with the hunt while security has been refinforced in ports and airports.
“The principal mission of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb is to recruit fighters for Iraq,” says one analyst. “Of course this priority doesn’t preclude other activities such as launching attacks with the Maghreb countries.”
The Algerian interior ministry claims that the Sahel region – a relatively lawless zone of the Sahara desert – is providing a base camp for the activities of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a group formerly known as the GSPC that traces its origins to the armed conflict that wracked Algeria in 1990s.
It launched seven simultaneous attacks east of Algiers earlier this month killing six people.