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Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Morocco

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 May 2013
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2012 - Morocco, 30 May 2013, available at: [accessed 18 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: Morocco's counterterrorism efforts are comprehensive. In 2012, the Moroccan government continued its broad counterterrorism strategy of vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter-radicalization policies. The terrorist threat in Morocco continued to stem largely from the existence of numerous small, independent violent extremist cells. Those groups and individuals, referred to collectively as adherents of so-called Salafiyya Jihadiyya ideology, remained isolated from one another, small in size, and limited in both capabilities and international connections. Morocco and the United States continued robust counterterrorism collaboration, and both countries committed to deepening this relationship during the September bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Washington, DC.

Toward the end of the year, authorities disrupted multiple groups with ties to international networks that included al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM expanded its efforts to recruit Moroccans for combat in other countries and called for attacks on U.S. ambassadors in Morocco and in the region. There were reports of Moroccans attempting to join or receive training from AQIM and other violent extremists in Mali, and the government was concerned about the return of these individuals to Morocco. The government was also concerned about veteran violent Moroccan extremists returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya to conduct terrorist attacks at home, and about Moroccans radicalized during their stays in Western Europe.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Morocco made public commitments that the struggle against terrorism would not be used to deprive individuals of their rights and emphasized adherence to human-rights standards and the increased transparency of law enforcement procedures as part of its approach. Morocco convicted dozens of individuals, including the highlighted cases below:

  • In February, the Salé Court of Appeals sentenced 27 men to prison terms of one to six years for planning terrorist attacks. The group, arrested in January 2011, had stockpiled weapons in Western Sahara and was planning suicide and car-bomb attacks against Moroccan and foreign security forces, according to the Ministry of Interior.

  • In March, an appeals court upheld the death sentence for Adil el-Atmani, the primary perpetrator of the 2011 Marrakech bombing.

  • In April, five men received sentences of one to five years under the terrorism law. The cell, dismantled in October 2011, had reportedly communicated with elements of al-Qa'ida through the internet, had links to el-Atmani, and planned to carry out attacks against tourist sites and western targets.

Morocco aggressively targeted and dismantled terrorist cells within the country by leveraging intelligence collection, police work, and collaboration with regional and international partners. Morocco's counterterrorism efforts led to the following disruptions of alleged terrorist cells:

  • In May, authorities arrested 15 members of the Mujahedin Movement in Morocco, a terrorist cell with connections to the May 2003 Casablanca bombers and AQIM, according to the Ministry of Interior. The group reportedly had automatic weapons and ammunition hidden in several cities in Morocco.

  • In October, the arrest of two men espousing violent extremist ideology in Salé led to the disruption of a nine member cell, according to the Ministry of Interior. The group reportedly was building a training camp in the Rif Mountains with the goal of attacking government targets in Morocco.

  • In November, authorities arrested eight members of Ansar al-Sharia in the Islamic Maghreb for allegedly planning to attack public buildings, the security services, and tourist sites, according to the Minister of Interior. The group, which had created a Facebook page in September, stated that its primary goals were to "restore Sharia to its true place in society, warn against secularism, and work for the restoration of the caliphate." Hassan el-Younsi, who started the page, was reportedly arrested in October.

  • In November, security services dismantled a 27-member cell including a Malian national, which allegedly recruited Moroccan youths for combat in Mali and the Sahel region. The cell consisted of individuals from Nador, Casablanca, Guersif, Laayoune, Kalaat Essraghna, Beni Mellal, and Berkane. The group reportedly sent at least 20 individuals to join the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and AQIM. Members were formally charged in December with forming a criminal gang, preparing to carry out acts of terrorism, jeopardizing public order, failure to report acts of terrorism, financing terrorism, persuading others to commit a terrorist crime, membership of a banned religious group, and holding meetings without permission.

  • In December, authorities dismantled a six-member cell in Fez, which was reportedly recruiting individuals to join AQIM. The cell allegedly also planned to send some members to AQIM training camps, who would then return to carry out attacks in Morocco.

  • In December, authorities arrested six individuals in Marrakech for allegedly planning to carry out terrorist attacks within the country.

Morocco continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program, which helped enhance Moroccan counterterrorism capabilities by providing training in cyber forensics, crime scene forensics, and executive leadership to both the national police and gendarmes.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Morocco is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and its Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. Since February 2010, Morocco has been publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism deficiencies. To address those deficiencies, it developed an action plan with the FATF. Morocco continued to implement provisions created in 2011, including the extension of judicial authority to prosecute money laundering crimes committed within the country and abroad, and the expansion of the list of people and organizations obliged to report on suspicious financial activities. Following the adoption of the 2011 legislation, the FATF determined that Morocco has not criminalized terrorist financing in line with the international standard, and has called upon Morocco to do so as soon as possible. For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Morocco maintained cooperative relationships with European and African partners by sharing information, conducting joint operations, and participating in military, security, and civilian capacity-building events. Morocco is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and hosted the GCTF Rule of Law Working Group meeting in February, which produced the Rabat Memorandum on Good Practices for Effective Counterterrorism Practice in the Criminal Justice Sector. Morocco also hosted a GCTF Workshop on Transnational Security Challenges in the South Atlantic in October. Morocco is a member of the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and hosted a GICNT Implementation and Assessment Group meeting in February.

Morocco is a Mediterranean Dialogue partner of the EU's Barcelona Process and a major non-NATO ally. Morocco participates in multilateral peacekeeping operations on the continent as well as in training exercises such as maritime-focused Phoenix Express, the Flintlock regional security cooperation exercise, and special operations exercises. These engagements, coupled with Morocco's initiative to modernize its force through Foreign Military Sales, have significantly enhanced border security and improved capabilities to counter illicit traffic and terrorism. Morocco currently holds the rotating presidency of the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Western Mediterranean. Morocco has also been active in the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States to address the conflict in Northern Mali. These are important steps, yet the lack of consistent cooperation among countries in the region remains a potential weakness that terrorist groups such as AQIM may exploit. Specifically, while Morocco and Algeria are members of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership and the GCTF, the level of bilateral counterterrorism cooperation did not improve. Algeria and Morocco's political disagreement over the Western Sahara remains an impediment to more profound counterterrorism cooperation.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Morocco has a three-pillar strategy for countering violent extremism (CVE). First, the government takes a law-and-order approach to CVE, working closely with the United States and other international and regional partners to strengthen its security and counterterrorism capabilities. Second, Morocco has accelerated its rollout of education and employment initiatives for youth and expanded the legal rights and political empowerment of women. Finally, to counter what the government perceives as the dangerous importation of violent Islamist extremist ideologies, it has developed a national strategy to confirm and further institutionalize Morocco's widespread adherence to the Maliki school of Islam. The United States works closely with the government and key Moroccan civil-society organizations to support and complement related, existing programs. The Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement funds a program to improve the overall management of Morocco's corrections system that seeks, among other objectives, to alleviate potential radicalism and recruitment of prisoners to terrorist ideology. In Morocco, disaffected and marginalized youth in urban and peri-urban environments have been identified as vulnerable to radicalization by and recruitment into violent extremist groups.

Every year during the month of Ramadan, the King hosts a series of religious lectures, inviting Muslim speakers from around the world to promote peaceful interpretations of Islam. In the past decade, and particularly since the Casablanca (2003) and Madrid (2004) terrorist bombings, Morocco has focused on countering youth radicalization; upgrading places of worship; modernizing the teaching of Islam; and strengthening the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (MEIA). The MEIA has developed an educational curriculum for Morocco's nearly 50,000 imams to to counter violent extremism and advance tolerance, which is inherent in the Maliki school of Sunni Islam, the dominant form of Islam in the country. To counter the radicalization of Moroccans living abroad, the Moroccan Council of Ulema for Europe and the Minister Delegate for Moroccans Living Abroad also undertook similar programs to promote religious moderation among Moroccan expatriate communities in Europe.

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