By Mawassi Lahcen
Moroccan security services recently arrested a French jihadist for seeking to recruit fighters and send them to organisations loyal to al-Qaeda.
The suspect was linked to Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, according to an interior ministry statement. He previously fought in Bosnia before joining the ranks of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, then Iraq and Syria.
“The investigation resulted in revealing that the concerned person was recently in Libya, where he was in contact with the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia before coming to Morocco through Tunisia,” the statement said.
He spent a week in the kingdom before he was arrested July 26th as he tried to depart from the port of Tangier.
The statement noted that the suspect was commissioned by Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, with the task of recruiting young Europeans of Arab and French descent in order to send them to fight in Syria.
The arrival of the suspect in Morocco could be linked to the recent strife in Libya, according to Abdelmajid Hachadi, a Moroccan journalist who specialises in tracking terrorist movements and radical Islamist groups.
These events indicate the intent of Ansar al-Sharia to attract foreign fighters to participate in the war against the Libyan army and military units allied to retired general Khalifa Haftar, he continued.
He added that it was “likely that this organisation has given him a task in Morocco. However, I am confident that the information that will be collected by the investigators will enable the dismantling of channels and networks essential for the recruitment and travel of jihadists to hot spots such as Syria and Iraq, as well as a recent addition: Libya.”
“The fact that the terrorist came to Morocco through Libya and Tunisia, meaning by land, was perhaps an attempt to circumvent the stringent security measures at airports,” Hachadi added. “Yet he fell in a trap when he tried to get out of the Mediterranean Port of Tangier, which has in recent weeks been the subject of intensive monitoring and high security due to the movement of the return of Moroccan immigrants from European countries to spend a summer vacation in their own country.”
“This is in addition to the new security measures taken by Morocco in the face of the growing terrorist threat,” Hachadi noted.
Morocco in recent weeks raised the level of security preparedness and vigilance at various ports, airports, and land border crossings because of the high degree of risk with the return of terrorist fighters from Syria and Iraq. Morocco fears the exploitation of returnees from the battlefront by extremists trying to infiltrate the country to carry out terrorist attacks.
Abdellah Rami, a Moroccan researcher specialising in Islamic groups, told Magharebia, “Unfortunately, the lack of co-ordination in terms of security between Maghreb countries constitutes the largest lapse of security in the region.”
“How else can we explain the movement of known terrorist figures and significant ones so easily across the border?” he asked.
Rami said that Morocco, despite efforts made in the fight against terrorism, still suffers from exclusion at security meetings held at the level of the Maghreb, the Sahel and Sahara.
“Confronting terrorist organisations, which pose the greatest threat to regional security, requires that all countries in the region leave bilateral and marginal differences aside and lay the foundation for close co-operation between the security and intelligence services,” he said.