Morocco and the threats of terrorism
The on-going fight to guarantee national security
Morocco belongs to the North African region and borders the Sahel belt: both areas are source of terrorism threats. The security of Morocco also suffers from the threats of the Polisario Front, a separatist movement that has camps of uncontrolled and uncounted populations. These factors put the Kingdom’s security at risk, that’s why various efforts have been done so far to keep the country a safe spot in the Arab and Mediterranean regions.
The efforts to fight terrorism, both at home and abroad, are increasing year by year. The country has taken various security measures since the start of the war against terrorism in 2002 and the outset of the war against what is called Islamic State, more recently. It has enforced strict security measures inside the country, in order to keep the safety of citizens and visitors. At the same time it has subscribed to various regional and international cooperation agreements on security and intelligence.
Morocco’s security efforts start from inside the country by promoting moderate Islam. For instance, King Mohammed VI has inaugurated the training center for imams and Morchidats (female religious leaders), the first of its kind in the Arab world. The center is playing an important role in giving guidance to imams on how to convince people that the correct way of practicing Islam is the moderate way.
Such an example has attracted the attention of many countries in Africa and Europe. Some African countries (Mali, Guinea Conakry, Nigeria, Libya and Tunisia) have demanded Morocco to instruct their imams.
Another counterterrorism measure is the “Hadar” (“vigilance” in Arabic) program: a proactive action to combat terrorism and deal with the recurring terrorist threats. The plan aims to support the work of the government departments to protect citizens and foreign visitors. “Hadar” incorporates the Royal Armed Forces, the Royal Gendarmerie, the Police and the auxiliary forces.
Before “Hadar” was enforced, the king himself ordered the police to fight the phenomenon of “Tcharmil”, in which teenagers post on Facebook photos with knives, tampered scooters and jewelry or money earned in robberies.
Dismantling terrorist cells is something that never ceases in Morocco: every day, or every week, or every month, the Moroccan interior minister dismantles terrorist cells. Such cells are part of both internal and international terrorism networks.
Since 2002, the Moroccan security services have dismantled some 132 terrorist structures and have arrested a total of 2,720 people, according to the statistics provided at the end of March by the Head of the Central Office of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) Abdelhak Khiam, in his first press conference after his appointment as head of the Moroccan FBI. Counterterrorism operations are done in coordination with the General Direction of National Security DGNS and the General Direction of National Surveillance DGST.
Since 2002, the security services have thwarted 276 activities of various kinds against Morocco. Among those: 119 operations of bombings, 109 projects of assassinations and 41 operations of robberies and armed attacks. The services have managed to identify some 1355 candidates to join terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and 286 Moroccan fighters who died in the same countries. Also 185 women and 135 children have been counted as involved. 156 fighters returning to Morocco have been identified as well as 500 Moroccan members of the terrorist group Daesh.
The policy of Morocco in fighting terrorism got stronger with the appointment of Abdellatif Hammouchi, already director general of DGST, as director general of DGNS last May. This royal appointment gives new impetus to the efforts towards security and promotes a modernization of its working methods. According to the royal cabinet the supervision of the two directions by Mr. Hammouchi ensures perfect coordination between the two departments and enhances the effectiveness of their action.
The expertise and information collected by DGST are recognized at an international level by foreign services. Many of them have been supported by Moroccan services in many preventive counterterrorism operations which have resulted in saving lives of both Moroccans and foreigners. The governments of France and Spain esteem the Moroccan intelligence: Spain decorated Mr. Hammouchi last fall, while France has recently given him the Legion of Honor.
At an international level, Morocco has subscribed to various regional and international pacts in order to coordinate counterterrorism. It works closely with the US and its regional neighbors through various initiatives and alliances such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum GCTF, which is co-chaired by Morocco and Netherlands, and the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership whose program is to counter violent extremism and terrorism across ten countries in the Sahel and Maghreb.
The country plays an important role in the region of Maghreb and Mediterranean. Its ministry of the interior is in close collaboration with the respective ministries from the area. Morocco is member of group 4, which is a union of four interior ministries (of France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco): their last meeting was held in Lisbon last April and it was mainly concerned with the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking and the management of migration flows. Morocco is also a member of the 5+5 group, which includes the five Arab Maghreb countries (Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya) and five European countries (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Malta); the 5+5 is concerned with issues of security and defense, along with cooperation in the economic, social and cultural fields.
The UN Counterterrorism Committee briefed last September the Director General of Moroccan Intelligence about Morocco's efforts in fighting terrorism. During the briefing the Director General highlighted its tripartite approach which includes high security measures, human development and religious moderation as keys to security, peace and stability.