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Morocco Dismantles Terror Network, Arrests 17

Moroccan police have dismantled a terrorist network, arresting 17 people, including two former prisoners at the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba, the official MAP news agency reported Sunday. At least some of the suspects were linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Brahim Benchekroun and Mohammed Mazouz -- among five Moroccans freed from Guantanamo in August 2004 -- were among the suspects.

They were arrested Nov. 11 at their homes in connection with a probe into Al Qaeda, a Moroccan security official said, among 17 implicated in the network. The official, not authorized to speak publicly, asked not to be identified by name.

Information about the network, dismantled before it was fully structured, remained sketchy, and it was unclear when the other arrests were made.

The top two suspects, Khaled Azig and Mohamed R'ha, were recruiting extremists for their cause, MAP quoted police as saying. Members of the network had links with small groups on the Iraqi border and close ties to leading members of the Al Qaeda terror network, MAP reported.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is reportedly holding two Moroccan Embassy employees who disappeared Oct. 20 while driving to Baghdad from Jordan.

Benchekroun and Mazouz were arrested in Pakistan and Afghanistan in late 2001 and among five Moroccans accused of taking training courses in how to handle firearms and make explosives.

A suspected former body guard of Usama bin Laden, Abdellah Tabarak, was also among the five released from Guantanamo. They were given provisional freedom in Morocco after leaving U.S. custody, but all face trial in their home country.

Morocco, a U.S. ally, has been tracking Islamic extremists since bombing attacks in Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 people -- 13 of them suicide bombers. The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group is suspected in the bombings that authorities have linked to Al Qaeda.