Morocco breaks up militant cell linked to Islamic State

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco said on Thursday security forces had dismantled an Islamist militant cell affiliated to the Islamic State group, including members with knowledge in handling weapons and explosives. North African governments are on high alert after last Friday's rampage by a gunman at a Tunisian beach resort in which 38 foreigners, mostly British holidaymakers, were killed. The attack was claimed by Islamic State. The Moroccan group of nine members was active in cities including Meknes, Tetouan, Tangiers and Laayoune in Western Sahara, the interior ministry said in a statement. It had been in contact with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and had tried to encourage young volunteers to fight for the group, the statement said. "The group has used internet to get expertise in making explosives and chemical materials as well as handling arms," it said. The Moroccan government believes 1,500 Moroccan nationals are fighting with armed groups in Syria and Iraq. About 220 have returned home and been jailed and 286 have been killed. Morocco has suffered attacks in the past by militants. In 2011, a blast in a cafe in Marrakesh killed 15 people. (Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by Patrick Markey and Angus MacSwan)