Morocco has long warned against the security challenges returnees from war zones pose.
Rabat – Haboub Cherkaoui, Head of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), has emphasized the acute security challenge Morocco and the whole region face due to the return of former ISIS fighters.
In a recent interview with Spanish agency EFE, Cherkaoui said that Morocco estimates the number of Moroccan terrorists and their families who are detained in the camps in northern Syria at 1,137.
He warned that the return of these people who joined ISIS or other terror organizations constitutes a “ great security challenge” not only for Morocco but for the rest of the countries in the region.
Cherkaoui described the individuals detained in Syria’s camps as dangerous.
“They accumulated training and experience in gang warfare, handling weapons, manufacturing explosives and car bombs, as well as propaganda and indoctrination,” the BCIJ chief explained.
The latest statistics identified 1,654 fighters in war zones in Syria and Iraq.
Approximately 1,060 of the total number have been active with groups affiliated to ISIS.
The data also indicated that 745 of the total number died in conflict zones, while 270 returned to Morocco, where they were subject to judicial procedures.
According to the BCIJ, about 189 women and 309 children from Morocco are still in detention camps in Syria.
Explaining Morocco’s security approach to tackling returnees’ situation, Cherkaoui explained that the country investigates them first before introducing them to programs that help them reintegrate into society.
In 2017, Morocco launched the Moussalaha (reconciliation) program with the aim of easing the social rehabilitation of prisoners with extremist ideologies.
The program is part of Morocco’s counterterrorism approach.
Cherkaoui explained out that the management of the returnee issue is a “political decision that must be taken within the framework of the existing international coalition.”
He also cited Morocco’s March 2019 decision to repatriate eight Moroccans who were part of terror organizations.
Morocco’s anti-drug trafficking approach
Cherkaoui also highlighted Morocco’s decision to adopt a bill legalizing cannabis production for medical and therapeutic use.
The BCIJ chief emphasized that this law could play a huge role in reducing the activity of drug trafficking networks.
The strategy to fight drug trafficking remains “constant,” he maintained.
According to Cherkaoui, Morocco’s firm approach against drug trafficking prevented Latin American cocaine trafficking carters from “penetrating and creating here a platform for transit to Europe by taking advantage of existing hashish channels.”
He noted the presence of “contacts” between Latin American cartels and Moroccan barons.
“But they have only resulted in the occasional use of warehouses where cocaine cartels store their merchandise,” he said.
Cherkaoui recalled that BCIJ was able to seize 59.9 tonnes of cannabis and 5.3 tons of cocaine in the last six years.
Statistics from the latest annual report of the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) indicate that seizures of cannabis and its derivatives increased to 217 tonnes and 323 kilograms in 2020. The number represents an increase of 37 tonnes compared to 2019.
In 2020, Moroccan police arrested 97,564 people for their involvement in drug trafficking cases, a decline of 23% compared to 2019.