The head of the BCIJ has shared recent statistics about the eminent role of his specialized anti-terrorism forces to combat the scourge of terrorism in Morocco.
Rabat – Abdelhak Khiame, the head of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) has spoken about his department’s counterterrorism strategy which has overthrown dozens of terror cells and investigated countless suspects since its creation in 2015.
Since its creation, BCIJ has dismantled 59 terror cells, 51 of which had ties to ISIS, said El Khiame in an interview with Moroccan television channel 2M.
Khiame added that since 2015, the number of terrorist cells in Morocco have decreased, owing to BCIJ’s counter-terrorism branch.
Khiame said that his services dismantled 9 cells this year and 8 last year.
The BCIJ chief said that 918 people were arrested for terror-related crimes, including 14 women and 29 minors. He noted that 98 percent of the people arrested in terror-related cases are Moroccans. He emphasized that very few women are involved in cases related to terrorism if “we exclude the female cell that was dismantled last year.”
Speaking about terror suspects who fought in conflict zones, the official said that of the 183 cells dismantled since 2002, 62 terror cells have been dismantled since 2013. The 62 terror cells all had close links to terrorist groups operating in conflict zones, including ISIS.
BCIJ’s head added that 1,666 Moroccan fighters joined the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq. About 929 of this number joined ISIS and about 225 others have a criminal record linked to terrorism.
Khiame said that 239 have returned from conflict zones while 643 others were killed in conflict zones. The majority were killed in suicide attacks, including “ISIS wives” and children.
He said that returness always impose a threat to the countries that receive them. “The Kingdom of Morocco knows that [returnees] will pose a threat to the security of citizens and its stability. That is why it put in place the counterterrorism strategy in 2015.”
End of ISIS in conflict zones?
Khiame said that the defeat of ISIS in the Middle East does not mean the end of the war against terrorism. He said that after the air strikes by the counterterrorism coalition in Syria and Iraq, ISIS has moved its terror projects to other places, including southern Libya, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Khiame said that “no one should say that the ISIS threat has ended.” He argued that the war against ISIS will take a long time. He said that social media helps terrorists to spread their ideologies easily.
“Many people adopted this ISIS ideology” and are waiting for an opportunity to wage terror attacks. He said that some of these people use ISIS’s lone wolf strategy, which has occured in several European countries, including Spain.
ISIS started using the strategy as its territory in Iraq and Syria shrank.
In recent years, ISIS has carried out attacks using knives and vehicle ramming—driving into people deliberately. He said that every country has terror threats, and therefore, countries should exercise heightened caution. He added that Morocco has the necessary equipment to face terror threats.
BCIJ is now investigating a possible terror attack committed against two tourists, 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark and 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway. The bodies of the two tourists were found on Monday, December 17, near Mount Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains.
BCIJ has arrested 18 suspects in connection to the murders of the two Scandinavian tourists.
In interview with AFP, Khiame said that the suspects did not fit the profiles of terrorists because they were living normal lives.
He said that they have a low level of education and simple jobs, like informal small-business merchants.
He added that people who know the suspects were shocked to discover that they were involved in the double murder. He said that the victims were stabbed, cut in throat, and decapitated.
The suspects, according to Khiame, were influenced by the self-styled “emir” of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Four suspects appeared in a video posted online on Thursday pledging allegiance to al-Baghdadi. The four suspects were the first four to be arrested for the double murder. The suspects, said Khiame, did not have any specific target but were planning to attack security services or any foreign target in the area.
Khiame noted that although they pledged allegiance to ISIS in the video, the four suspects committed the murder without coordination with ISIS. The suspects have no links with terrorists operating in Syria, Iraq, or Libya, he asserted.