Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) dismantled 49 terror cells, 44 of which are directly linked to the Islamic State (ISIS), and arrested 772 people since its creation in 2015, BCIJ head, Abdelhak Khiame, said.
Khiame pointed out, in an interview with French Daily “Le Monde” to be published on Wednesday, that 97 people who returned from conflict zones were also arrested, including 84 who returned from Iraq and Syria and 13 from Libya, in addition to 53 other individuals who were turned back by other countries.
A seven-member terror cell linked to the Islamic State and which was operating in the cities of Tangier and Meknes was busted last week by the BCIJ, he recalled.
At the same time, legislation has been strengthened, as a law adopted in 2015 stipulates that anyone who has rallied or attempted to join a region where a terrorist group is operating has to be arrested, interrogated and brought to justice, he said, noting that these individuals may be sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison.
“After the introduction of the biometric card and passport and the reinforcement of border controls, we have had no more departures,” he said, noting that today, the radicalization process is made via Internet.
Asked about the case of Moroccan-born bi-nationals involved in the terrorist attacks that hit Europe in recent years, Khiame mentioned some factors that contributed to this situation, including the lack of appropriate laws to arrest suspects.
As for the attacks in Paris (2015) and Brussels (2016), the police knew that some individuals had gone to conflict zones, but in the absence of legal texts, they could not interrogate them, he explained.
“Many of these young bi-nationals have become radicalized in prisons,” he noted, adding that this shows that they were not integrated well into society.
He also said that Morocco works with its Western partners very effectively, by exchanging information on these bi-nationals.
“We have liaison officers in the partner countries and Western liaison officers are in Morocco,” he said.
Khiame noted that ISIS has not disappeared. “There has been a relocation: as they moved to the Sahel-Saharan region and Libya. When they find troubled areas, they settle down.”
This poses a threat to Morocco and the entire region, he said, adding that the Kingdom is exchanging information with several countries.
“The problem is the absence of collaboration of the Algerians and the existence of an area controlled by a terrorist group that is the Polisario,” he said, recalling that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb continues to control southern Algeria and northern Mali.
“Even if there are differences [between the two organizations], they defend the same ideology”, Khiame noted.
Following the 2003 attacks in Casablanca, HM King Mohammed VI called for a new strategy to fight terrorism, he said, adding that this strategy includes, in addition to the security aspect, the religious field and development.
It is, in this regard, that Morocco has reformed the religious field and launched the National Initiative for Human Development to improve living conditions, he said.