Rabat – The head of the Moroccan anti-terrorism bureau has stated that the kingdom will double its efforts to fight radicalization among Moroccans living abroad.
The statement comes after the recent attacks in Spain, which were suspected to have been carried out by a terrorist cell consisting of young men of Moroccan descent.
In an interview with the Associated Press published by the Washington Post, Abdelhak El Khiam, the director of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), said that he was personally struck to see young men of Moroccan descent involved in the attacks.
“Really I was frightened by what we saw happen in Barcelona. They were all youths of Moroccan origin, their parents were Moroccan,” he said Tuesday in the BCIJ headquarters in Sale, near the capital Rabat.
However, he made it clear that these youth “had no connection to Morocco other than their origin and their family.”
El Khiam stressed on the importance of cross-border cooperation to fight radicalization among Moroccan immigrant communities, pointing to the fact that European countries are not the only ones under threat from the radicalization of diaspora communities.
He cited the example of a Moroccan immigrant who was arrested in the aftermath of the attacks in Barcelona. Having been radicalized in Catalonia, the individual had come back to Morocco with the aim of staging terrorist attacks in the kingdom, El Khiam noted.
While Morocco is keeping an eye on extremist Moroccan elements abroad, local security services remain alert to track fighters in foreign extremist groups like the so-called Islamic State group (ISIS) who are now returning to Morocco. Totaling 1,664 according to the BCIJ, Moroccan recruits make up a sizable number among foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Security services have already arrested 85 recruits who came back to the country, including 14 women.
El Khiam emphasized that uprooting terrorism and radical ideology cannot be achieved by security measures alone. For this reason, Morocco has sought to tackle the sources of radicalism by launching programs to eradicate poverty and to train imams with the aim of spreading a moderate discourse to counter extremist messages.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils in Spain, Morocco reiterated its commitment to fight terrorism, and King Mohammed VI gave instructions to the government to increase security coordination with Spain.
In late August, a high Spanish security delegation headed by the Minister of Interior Juan Ignacio Zoido visited Morocco to meet with local security officials and discuss ways to strengthen mutual cooperation.
The visit was once again a further indication of Spain’s recognition of Morocco’s role as a key security partner.