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Two arrested in Morocco over suspected links to Barcelona attackers - report


RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan authorities have arrested two people suspected of links to the alleged perpetrators of the van attack that killed 13 people in the Spanish city of Barcelona, state TV channel 2M reported on Tuesday.

One of the men, a 28-year-old detained in the Nador, close to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, lived for 12 years in Barcelona and is suspected of links to Islamic State and of plotting to attack the Spanish embassy in Rabat, the channel reported. It gave no details of the alleged plot.

No direct link has been identified between the suspect and the cell of mainly young Moroccans behind the Barcelona attack, but he had celebrated the attack on Facebook, the report said.

A second suspect was arrested in the town of Oujda, close to Morocco's border with Algeria, 2M reported. He was a resident of Ripoll, the small town in northeastern Spain where many members of the cell were living.

Both suspects were arrested on Sunday, according to 2M. Moroccan officials did not respond to requests for comment.

On Monday Spanish police shot dead 22-year-old Moroccan Younes Abouyaaqoub, whom they had identified as the driver of the van that ploughed through crowds on Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona last Thursday, killing 13 people and injuring 120.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the van attack and a separate deadly assault, hours later, in the coastal resort of Cambrils, south of Barcelona.

Police have said that the imam suspected of leading the militant cell, Abdelbaki Es Satty, died when a house the group was using to build bombs blew up a day before the Barcelona attack.

At the remote northern Moroccan village of Tangaya, in the country's mountainous Rif region, security officials stationed near Es Satty's family home barred a reporter from approaching on Tuesday.

Residents said Es Satty, who was in his mid-40s and had been convicted for drug trafficking in Spain, had left more than 15 years ago and had not recently returned.

"The imam left a very long time ago," said one resident of the village, which is surrounded by cannabis plants that many families in the region grow to stave off poverty.

"Since he was convicted in Spain … he no longer came to the village, but met up with his family in Tangiers."

(Reporting by Zakia Abdennebi; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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