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Morocco Ups Terror Alert To Highest Level

Morocco raised its terror alert to its highest level Friday, citing a "serious threat of a terrorist act" and ordering stepped-up security nationwide, the Interior Ministry said.

The North African nation's top police, intelligence and security officials met Friday to discuss terror threats, and decided to raise the alert level to "maximum," the state news agency MAP said, citing a ministry statement.

The "maximum" alert level "indicates a serious threat of a terrorist act and demands extreme mobilization by the bodies concerned," the statement said, according to MAP.

No details about the threat were reported. A security official confirmed to The Associated Press that the meeting took place and the alert level was raised, but would give no other details because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called off a trip to Morocco scheduled for next week. The trip was put off at the request of Moroccan authorities "for scheduling reasons," Sarkozy spokesman David Martinon said Friday. No mention was made of security risks.

Moroccan authorities last raised security alert levels in April after suicide bombings in Casablanca and larger suicide attacks in neighboring Algeria. Authorities also raised security alert levels in February.

This time, Interior Minister Mohamed Benaissa, citing "viable intelligence" about terrorist threats, urged security services to heighten their vigilance, MAP said.

The minister also announced a long-term plan for boosting anti-terrorist agencies and the number of personnel.

Suicide bombings in 2003 in Casablanca killed 45 people and stunned this relatively moderate Muslim country, a popular vacation spot. Since then, Moroccan authorities have cracked down on suspected terrorist activity, making regular arrests.

In March, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Casablanca cyber cafe, and investigators later uncovered an alleged plot targeting tourist sites across Morocco. Police later cornered four suspects, shooting one dead and prompting the other three to blow themselves up to avoid capture. The blasts killed a policeman and injured 21 other people.

The government has downplayed potential links to international terrorist networks, but security analysts place the recent Casablanca violence within a wave of resurgent Islamic extremism in North Africa.