By Siham Ali
Morocco on Saturday (May 5th) announced the country’s third victory against terrorist cells since Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane took office in November.
Judicial Police (BNJP) arrested an undisclosed number of terror suspects in the sting operation, including the alleged leader of the “Mujahideen Movement in Morocco”, which reportedly operated in several cities in the kingdom.
“The group’s head was the subject of several national and international arrest warrants for his involvement in terrorism-related cases and serious interference with the internal security of the kingdom,” an interior ministry statement read.
According to the ministry, the ringleader had close ties with international terrorist groups and had been able to transport weapons into Morocco.
Further details of the raid were not released. The ongoing investigation is being supervised by the prosecution.
Other recent victories against terror in Morocco include the April raid near Meknes of a terrorist cell allegedly planning to attack the kingdom’s electrical supply and the February dismantling of a cell linked to the Islamic Liberation Party.
The Mujahideen Movement in Morocco originated in 1975 when a split occurred within the Moroccan youth community. It spread to other countries after members were charged with smuggling weapons into Morocco.
According to political analyst Magid Kassimi, one of the movement’s early leaders, Mohamed Nekkaoui, was arrested following the 2003 Casablanca bombings that left 45 people dead. He acknowledged his connection to Pierre Robert, a French Muslim accused of terrorist acts in Morocco and was sentenced to life in prison for planning terrorist attacks, possessing weapons and endangering the country’s welfare.
Since 2003, Morocco has dismantled around 70 terrorist units, Kassimi said. However, despite the country’s high level of success, it has suffered numerous attacks as well.
In March 2007, suicide bomber Abdelfettah Raydi activated a bomb hidden under his clothes in a Casablanca cybercafé. His accomplice fled but was arrested by police.
On April 14, 2007, two brothers blew themselves up on Moulay Youssef Boulevard in Casablanca. That same day, in the same city, a police officer was killed in a suicide bombing.
Again in 2007, an aspiring suicide bomber attempted to blow up a tourist bus with a gas cylinder.
In April of 2011, terror struck again at the heart of Marrakech, the country’s biggest tourist destination. A bomb placed in a bag at the Argana Cafe on Djemaa el-Fna exploded just before noon, killing 17 and injuring at least 20 more.
Over the past few years, the Moroccan government has put its security forces on “high alert” in order to counter a “proven terrorist threat”.
Morocco has enforced somewhat of an “embargo” on terrorist units by limiting their field of action, said Salim Chennaoui, an international relations specialist.
“The risk however still remains very much a reality,” he said. “As far as curbing terrorism in the area, international co-operation is a must.”
Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Youssef Amrani is in favour of an international partnership.
During the Friday (May 4th) United Nations Security Council (UNSC) conference on “Threats to International Security”, he voiced his concern over the spread of terrorist acts in the neighbouring sub-regions, especially in the Sahel and in West Africa.
He stressed the “urgency of establishing a framework of long-lasting dialogue, co-operation and solidarity that would include all nations faced with problems of regional security and stability”.