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Despite Morocco’s Success Fighting Terrorism, Tindouf Camps Remain Al-Qaida ‘Breeding Ground’: El Khiam

BCIJ Head Deplores Algeria’s Unwillingness to Cooperate on Terrorism Issues
Abdelhak Khiam, Morocco's BCIJ Head

Rabat – With 174 terrorist cells dismantled since 2002, Morocco’s anti-terrorism strategy has proven a success, but the country’s counter-terror chief warns of the regional threat posed by instability in Algeria‘s Tindouf camps.

With Morocco intensifying its security strategies to tackle the threat of terrorism, the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) announced that Morocco has dismantled 174 terrorist cells since 2002, including 60 cells linked to groups in Syria and Iraq.

Abdelhak El Khiam, the head of the BCIJ, said the bureau’s forces have thwarted a total of 352 terrorist attempts aimed at undermining Morocco’s security.

El Khiam revealed the numbers at an international seminar held on Friday in Rabat under the theme “The spread of extremism in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) region and the adequate strategy to prevent recruitment of youth by terrorist organizations: the Moroccan approach.”

The BCIJ chief also provided data on Moroccan fighters in different terror hotspots.

“There are over 1,660 Moroccan fighters in foreign terror organizations, including 929 whom are active within the so-called Islamic State (ISIS),” he said

He added that 100 fighters belong to “Cham Al Andalous,” while 50 are members of “Jabhat Fateh al-Cham.” The BCIJ director said that the other fighters are active with other terrorist cells.

During the meeting, which was organized at Morocco’s House of Councilors in partnership with the general assembly of the OSCE, El Khiam added that around 221 fighters have returned to Morocco, while 596 others have died during terrorist acts.

“285 women joined their families in conflict regions, while only 15 children out of 378 have returned to Morocco,” the chief added.

El Khiam stressed that there has been a decline in the number of Moroccans joining terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, due to the intervention of international coalition forces as well as BCIJ’s success in dismantling terrorist cells.

The BCIJ director also discussed Morocco’s strategy to counterterrorism and fight against extremism.

“This integrated, global, and multidimensional strategy relies on proactive operations seeking to dismantle terrorist cells as well as to reinforce both the security and religious aspects of counter-extremist actions.”

“Violent extremism is considered “a real threat and know no borders” as it can extend to societies across the world, in the context of transnational crime,” he said.

Morocco’s approach is also based on the strengthening of the legal arsenal in the field of the fight against terrorism and security.

“Morocco is driven by a solid desire to reinforce the foundations of a multidimensional approach that combines international religious and security approaches in order to combat the dangers of violent extremism and terrorism,” El Khiam said.

During the meeting, El Khiam has also discussed the terrorism threats facing Morocco, explaining that the camps of Tindouf represent a source of concern for the country, since they remain a “breeding ground” for the Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

“The rise of terrorist operations in the region, especially in Libya, reveals the strategy of expansion of the nebulous terrorist organization,” he added.

Earlier in October, the BCIJ dismantled a terrorist cell in the city of Fez, arresting two individuals aged 25 and 30 years suspected of having links with ISIS. The Moroccan security elements seized guns, hunting guns, explosives material, blades, communication equipment and a large sum of cash money.

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