Morocco-Spain Dismantle Islamic State Recruitment Cell – OpEd


International media is reporting that Moroccan and Spanish authorities jointly and successfully led a joint operation that dismantled a group of 14 people suspected of recruiting for the Islamic State.

“Those arrested formed part of a network who recruited and sent fighters to join the ranks of the Islamic State terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq,” a statement from the interior ministry said

Spain’s Interior Ministry said the arrests took place in San Martin de la Vega, just south of Madrid, and in five locations in northern Morocco — Casablanca, Fez, Nador, Al Hoceima and Driouech.

In fact, and over the last two years, the Moroccan security services have broken up a considerable number of cells that recruited young Moroccans embracing with jihadist thoughts.

In an interview published by the international weekly “Jeune Afrique” last July the Moroccan Minister of Interior Mohammed Hassad stated that eight jihadist cells were dismantled between January and May this year and another 14 in the year 2014, noting that the terrorist threat is “real Morocco, as elsewhere.”

The Minister added that twenty-seven jihadist cells have been dismantled in Morocco since 2013, said Minister of the Interior, Mohamed Hassad, stressing that the Kingdom adopts both an operational and preventive approach in the fight against the terrorist threat.

The minister also said that counter-terrorism operations, both internally and in the framework of cooperation with foreign partners including Spain, are “inconclusive,” stressing that “nothing is possible without preventive work “.

It has, in this regard, emphasized the importance of religious guidance, upgrading of criminal law, the fight against precariousness and exclusion through the INDH and enhanced security feature Hadar set up throughout the country, noting that “this multidimensional commitment was more than once hailed by the international community.”

“It is no coincidence that Morocco was elected in May as co-chair of the Global Forum of fight against terrorism,” he argued.

Morocco, which is aware of the risk of recruiting Moroccans including ex-prisoners by terrorist groups, radicalization has initiated measures through the Mohammed VI Foundation for the reintegration of prisoners and support programs for micro-projects and self-employment, adding that the religious field by promoting a moderate and tolerant Islam is not neglected in prison.

Since 2003, Morocco has been adopting a pre-emptive strike policy against the terrorist groups. Morocco doesn’t want to be involved in supplying any region with terrorist fighters because it is itself a victim of that. Morocco’s counter-terrorism policy, which involved legal, social and religious reforms, has worked, in general.

Nevertheless, there have been reversals with each policy area with human rights shortcomings and corruptions working to undermine the pace and rate of reforms. These accumulated reversals eventually fed the February 20, 2011 social movement which forced a return to more active reforms. There are certain default patterns of thought present among some in the country that could create a political opening for the convicted terrorists and their sympathizers.

To help, the outside world needs to proceed in a manner that includes the Moroccan public. The Moroccan government is aware broadly of the problem and has offered a package of reforms.

Morocco follows a complex anti-terrorism policy borne largely out of the state’s reactions to the events of May 16, 2003, when a group, later found to be associated with al-Qaeda, attacked a number of sites in the city of Casablanca with home-made suicide bombs, killing about three dozen people including most of their own. The terrorist attacks of that day continue to shape anti-terrorism policy, broadly speaking, although with some recent and significant modifications. The strategy adapted after May 16, 2003 included an anti-terrorism law, social assistance programmes and a reform of the religious sector. In each of these three sectors there have been both successes and failures.

In general, the anti-terrorism law 03.03 has worked well to prevent further attacks. Unfortunately, it has become the target of attacks by both human rights activists and Islamists who believe that it is being used unfairly. Among the arguments raised is that the law itself is not the issue, but rather excesses that are believed to have been committed in law enforcement. Concerning social reforms, these were well intentioned and appear to have made some dent in reducing certain forms of substandard housing.

Finally, the religious reforms included better education and female inclusion in the religious establishment. From a purely security perspective, the policy was effective because it reduced the number of attacks and prevented the transformation of Morocco into an open territory for al-Qaeda, like Algeria and Mauritania. However, Morocco is totally aware that the security approach on its own will not lead to positive results. Therefore, an ambitious social policy was launched to improve the well being of Moroccans. Health, decent housing and major economic investments to create jobs especially for the youth.

Besides, Morocco’s amended anti-terror law now stipulates a prison sentence of between 5 and 15 years for anyone found guilty of inciting terrorism. The aim of this is to protect the youth from becoming victims of sweeping propaganda.

Morocco has set up a model for other neighboring nations to fight terrorism and extremist ideologies. So far it has been successful but certainly a regional effective cooperation will put an end to this threat that does not menace only countries in north Africa and Sub Saharan Africa, but Europe and even the United States.

Said Temsamani

Said Temsamani is a Moroccan political observer and consultant, who follows events in his country and across North Africa. He is a member of Washington Press Club.

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