By Abdelkader Filali
By Abdelkader Filali
Toronto – The recent escalation of violence perpetuated by the jihadist groups in North Africa poses the question of why these groups are intensely radicalizing and are becoming involved in jihadi guerrilla warfare using the hit and run tactics and seek havens in the geography of the region (mountains, forests, and Sahara deserts).
Why Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb-AQIM- is using the Algerian Sahara deserts and mountains? Why Ansar Ashari’a –AST- in Tunis are sheltering in the She’anbi mountains? Why the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group –LIFG- is using the vast Libyan Sahara? Why Ansar AlQuds –AA- in Egypt are settling in the Sinai Sahara? Why the Mauritanian Group for Preaching and Jihad- GMPJ- is actively located in the great Sahara? And Why the Malian Ansar Addine- MAA- is mobilizing in the Northern Sahara next Algeria?
Yet, there is an absence of Moroccan jihadi groups sheltering or seeking haven in the most hospitable conditions of geography and its topographic powers?
What conditions have helped then preventing the radicalization of Moroccan jihadists amid the mots favorable conditions?
Terrorism in Morocco
In the aftermath of 9/11 and subsequent attacks by Al Qaeda and affiliated groups all over the world, there was an increase of individual mobilization and recruitment by jihadi movement. Al Qaeda main ideational framework resides in its call for global jihadism- GJ-. This ideational framework outlines two confrontational strategies: on the one hand it declares an open war against Islamic states (near enemies) that are regarded as ally to the West, and on the other hand, it justifies attacks and terror against non Islamic societies (far enemies). In February 2003, Osama Bin Laden listed Morocco among the future targets as the near enemy. This declaration has been seen as a call for jihad. This religious edict fatwa seems to have stimulated attacks on Casablanca three months later on May 16, 2003, in which 12 suicide bombers attacked five Jewish and Western targets killing 45 and injuring hundreds. The bombers were identified being members of the salafi jihadiya, which embrace the Al Qaeda doctrine. They originated from the suburbs of Casablanca. Since then most dismantled cells or imprisoned salafi leaders were actives in the urban areas.
Casablanca attack is a case in point of urban violence where it illustrates both an attack against the “near enemies” (Moroccan state/ society) and far enemies (a night club frequented mostly by Jews and Westerners -far enemies) according to jihadists. Since then, this event seems to have contributed to the proliferation of the term salafi jihadism in the western academia and media.
Why then, the Moroccan salafi jihadism opened a space of correctness, and de-radicalization since 2011? And why we do not see any terrorist acts since Argana 2011 attacks?
No longer do the current generation of Moroccan jihadists affiliate with a global jihadist ideology, rather, they emerge from local franchises such as salafiya jihadiya, and sirat al mostakim.
Morocco’s Counter-Radicalization Initiative: Hammouchi’s Approach
In light of these threats, Moroccan agencies and with the growing threat of jihadists’ threats, both the DGSN and DGST and similar agencies are coordinating and developing a sustainable counter-radicalization initiatives in order to mobilize and contain future menaces.
Harvard Law School Professor Philip Heymann argues in his book Terrorism, Freedom, and Security: Wining Without War declaring from the beginning that “war” is a misleading and inaccurate term. According to him and to many terrorists’ observers that the missing link in the fight against terrorism is listening, understanding and assessing.
His name is Abdellatif Hammouchi dual head of the Moroccan secret services General Directorate for Territorial Surveillance commonly referred as DGST (Direction General de la Surveillance du Territoire), and head of the law and public order directorate: la Direction Generale de la Surete’ Nationale- DGSN.
His approach does not attempt to re-indoctrinate detained jihadists to accept a different interpretation of Islam; rather, it strives to get them renounce violence. The primary goal is getting jihadists to reject the killing of innocent civilians and seeking on the second level the rejection of the anti state ideology proliferated by the global jihadists indoctrination. The uniqueness of the intervention is that it does not use an authoritative religious face to re-educate and force revisions among jihadists. The direct intervention bases its tactics in listening; understanding and assessing what jihadi prisoners have in their minds. To make this approach more successful, mediators such as human rights activists, former released jihadists were not given much space in the opening of the direct dialogue between the DGST and DGSN.
The Moroccan Experience
Morocco has come a long way in terms of vigilance and preemptive measures to face the threat of terrorism. The geopolitics of Morocco and its geographical location with its sea borders and turmoil in the neighboring countries because of jihadists groups still is under threats. Since the King Mohammed VI came to the throne, his vision is to improve the social fragility and address the overall environment that breeds religious extremism.
The counterterror teams when dismantling terrorist cells and when they conduct raids to capture terrorist suspects, they understand the sensitivity of force employment, and the image that the King wants for Morocco.
 Pargeter. Alison. (2005). The Islamist Movement in Morocco. Terrorism Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 10. The James Town Foundation
CRS Report for Congress. Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress.
 Terrorism, Freedom, and Security: Winning Without War. By Philip B. Heymann. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. Pp. xiii, 210. Price: $24.95 (Hardcover). Reviewed by Nicholas Stephanopoulos.
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