Morocco “keeps a watchful eye” on its nationals in Europe in coordination with European police services to monitor many cases of young migrants subject to radicalization, said Abdelhak Khiame, head of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), in an interview with Spanish outlet Efe.
Efe gave the interview on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack which took place in Spain’s Cambrils and Barcelona in August 2017. Some individuals of Moroccan origin were involved in the incident which killed 16 and wounded 150.
According to Khiame, Morocco needs to have full access to Europol’s databases. “We have launched a new strategy to monitor the Moroccans who are abroad, and in fact we have called our Western counterparts to share with us the data they have.”
“With this request, the BCIJ wants to have direct access to information about all these young people, many of whom are binational and at risk of violent extremism,” explained the Spanish outlet.
Referring to last year’s terrorist attack in Catalonia, Khiame said, “We have to learn lessons from cases like this.”
“The Spanish security services should count all Moroccans in their territory, and communicate with us if they have suspicions about someone,” he added.
Khiame criticized French police
The BCIJ chief praised the cooperation between Moroccan and Spanish intelligence services, saying that it is “excellent” and “without failures.”
However, Khiame “criticized the French security services which did not inform their Moroccan counterparts about a French-Moroccan involved in a recent attack, a person who was classified in the so-called ‘File S’ as a dangerous criminal.” Khiame believed the information was essential for the BCIJ, the Spanish outlet said.
The attack Khiame referred to occurred on March 23 in Trebes, a small town in southern France, when an armed French-Moroccan suspect, Redouane Lakdim, entered a supermarket and took hostages, eventually killing four people, including a high-ranking officer. Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame sacrificed his life to save a hostage.
Khiame previously criticized Spanish police
A week after the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils on August 17, 2017, Khiame criticized the Spanish police’s lack of control over mosques in Spain.
“How come the mosque in Ripoll didn’t attract attention? Were the imams not controlled? And I who thought that our Spanish friends understood many things after the Madrid attacks in 2004,” he said in an interview with Efe.
Khiame noted the same issue in this year’s interview with Efe. “Khiame praised the ‘professionalism’ of the police, but highlighted some pending issues such as the need to control the religious sphere” in Spain, Efe wrote.
“Spain has a strong community of Muslims, including converts and those from other countries,” Khiame told Efe. “These people should receive religious guidance.”
For this reason, Khiame called for all worship places in Spain to be “under the tutelage of a governmental institution.”
According to Khiame, lack of government control over mosques and social marginalization are some of the main reasons youth turn to extremist ideologies.
As for Morocco, the BCIJ chief indicated that the reform of the religious field, including tight control over sermons, have led to “the disappearance of anarchist mosques.”
Morocco needs Europol’s intelligence
On Europol, Khiame reiterated, “I believe that the database of all agencies responsible for security in Europe such as Europol has to be shared with North African countries like Morocco.”
The European Parliament issued a press statement on July 5 which stated that The Council of the EU agreed that its commission could start talks with Morocco and seven other MENA countries on exchanging data with Europol.
“The aim of strengthening cooperation is to prevent and combat terrorism and organized crime, and to better address migration-related challenges such as the facilitation of irregular migration and trafficking in human beings.”
However, the agreement on exchanging intelligence data between Europol and the MENA countries cannot be concluded if it fails to comply with EU law on the protection of personal data, to ensure equivalent protection, according to the statement.
In this regard, a source from security told Efe that “Europol has requested data from Morocco several times, but Europol has been reluctant to give full access to its data because they consider that Morocco’s data protection legislation is not adapted to European legislation.”