“In 2016, Morocco’s counter terrorism efforts effectively mitigated the risk of terrorism,” said the report, pointing on the other hand to the fact that Morocco is still facing threats from small terror cells mostly loyal to ISIS.
The document, released on Wednesday, outlined the achievements of Moroccan security services in 2016, stating that in the ongoing year 18 terrorist cells have been dismantled while 161 terrorism-related arrests were carried out.
A number of non-Moroccan nationals were arrested during these operations, including Algerian, French, Chadian, and Italian citizens.
“During the year, authorities reported the disruption of multiple groups with ties to international networks that included ISIS, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and al-Nusrah Front (al-Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria),” said the report.
The efficiency of Moroccan law enforcement units’ interventions is reflecting in how they “aggressively targeted and effectively dismantled terrorist cells within the country by leveraging intelligence collection, police work, and collaboration with regional and international partners.”
While a good number of Moroccans, 1,500 individuals according to the government, are reportedly in war zones in Syrian and Iraq, the report stated that “increased international cooperation and vigilance by Moroccan authorities, and consistent with global trends on foreign terrorist fighters,” resulted in the departure of “only a few Moroccans” for Iraq or Syria in 2016.
Efforts of Moroccan security services proved also effective in “detecting terrorist financing.” The report cited as an example a joint operation in November 2016 by the National Brigade of Judiciary Police (BNPJ) and the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) which led to the arrest of “two Turkish nationals and a Moroccan who were involved in diverting a national telephone operator’s communication lines to sell stolen services to raise funds for ISIS.”
The arrested group had ties with ISIS operational leaders and intended to fund ISIS activities and facilitate the return of the organization’s foreign terrorist fighters to Europe.
The document also stated that “Moroccan airport authorities have excellent capabilities in detecting fraudulent documents, but currently lack biometric screening capabilities.”
In addition to effective security measures, the US State Department reports reminded Morocco “has a comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism that prioritizes economic and human development goals” and “tight control of the religious sphere.”
As part of this strategy, Morocco launched initiatives for education and youth employment, especially among underprivileged populations prone to radicalization.
An educational curriculum was developed by Moroccan Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs for almost 50,000 local imams, while visiting religion students from other countries in Africa and Europe benefit from another international program at the Mohammed VI Center for the Training of Imams in Rabat.
Other key religious institutions cited in the report include the Higher Council for African Ulema in Fez, whose members, representing 30 African countries, were appointed in June 2016 by King Mohammed VI with the aim of promoting moderate Islam and countering radical ideology.
Moroccan Council of Ulema for Europe is working to promote a similar message in Europe.
The US State Departments praised security cooperation with Morocco, saying that Moroccan government authorities worked directly with the US Customs and Border Protection’s Regional Carrier Liaison Group and the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Investigations Attaché office at the US Consulate in Casablanca to address watch-listed or mala fide travelers.
The report mentioned also that Morocco continued in 2016 to participate in US counter terrorism programs and remained a partner in several training and events related to fighting terrorism.