Rabat – Since its creation in 2015 to help fighting terrorism and other forms of criminality, Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), has been making the headlines.
Nicknamed “Morocco’s FBI”, the Bureau has been successful in dismantling scores of terrorist sleeping sells and arresting dozens of terrorism suspects.
Its director, Abdelhak El Khiam, has become a widely known figure in Morocco thanks to his numerous appearances on TV and interviews he gave to dozens of newspapers, websites and TV channels.
A good communicator, El Khiam is seen by many as completely the opposite of the image Moroccans have had for decades of security officials. That is why he seems the perfect guy, from within security apparatus, to market the kingdom’ strategy in the fight against terror.
Invited to talk about Morocco’s experience in dealing with terrorism threats, Abdelhak El Khiam outlined, in a interview with the French TV channel “France 24”, BCIJ’s achievements so far.
“43 terrorist cells have been dismantled since 2015”, said BCIJ’s director, adding that is success is due to the Bureau’s preemptive strategy in countering terrorism. “We dismantle terrorist cells before they move to action”, explained El Khiam.
The Moroccan security official revealed that there are 1623 Moroccan fighters abroad, and that 400 others died in combat. “78 people came back from these war zones. We deal with these people according to the law. The first thing we do is to submit them to interrogations on why they left for these zones, as it is forbidden by Moroccan law, then they are transferred to the General Prosecution for further investigations”.
Since terrorism is a transnational threat, regional cooperation is important. Abdelhak El Khiam said that coordination with countries such as Mauritania is strong. But, with Algeria it is another story. Morocco’s Eastern neighbor is not that cooperative.
“Intelligence cooperation between Morocco and its Western allies remains strong”, said El Khayam, citing as an example Morocco sharing information with France and Belgium and other countries.
El Khiam also pointed out that the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations surveilles the web and social media to track terrorist organizations since the latter use internet to spread their message and attract new recruits.
El Khiam also explained that phones are put under surveillance only when the General Prosecution authorizes it, and that these operations are conducted under its monitoring.
BCIJ director also said that Morocco’s fighting terrorism laws are in line with respect of human rights, adding that arrest operations are conducted under the surveillance of the General Prosecution, and that arrested individuals have the right to remain silent or ask for a lawyer.