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Morocco breaks terror cell

SKHIRAT, Morocco (CNN) -- Three Saudi nationals with suspected ties to al Qaeda have been arrested in Morocco accused of planning "terrorist attacks" on British and U.S. naval vessels in the Straits of Gibraltar.

The plot mirrored the attack on the USS Cole, a senior government official said on Monday.

Spanish, French, U.S. and British intelligence agencies helped monitor the men and establish ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, the official added.

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The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the plot to attack the ships was made well before the September 11 terror attacks.

The three suspects are said to have melded into Moroccan society, marrying Moroccan women, as they awaited for the green light.

The suspects were allegedly planning to sail dinghies packed with explosives into U.S. and British ships in the Strait of Gibraltar, the official said.

That alleged plot resembles the one carried out in October 2000, when two suicide bombers in an explosives-laden dinghy rammed the USS Cole destroyer in the port of Aden in Yemen, killing 17 sailors and wounding 37 others.

The names of the three men were not immediately released, and further details about the arrests were being kept under a tight lid.

News of the arrests came as the U.S. authorities said they had detained an American national for allegedly conspiring with al Qaeda. (Full story)

Abdullah al Muhajir is being questioned in connecton with an alleged plot to build and detonate a radioactive "dirty" bomb, possibly in Washington DC.

Al Muhajir, who was born in New York and changed his name from Jose Padilla, was detained by the FBI in Chicago when he returned to the U.S. from Pakistan last month.


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