15 July 2014

Morocco Braces for Islamic State Threat

Casablanca — Morocco is tightening security measures in response to a "serious terrorist threat" from the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad on Thursday (July 10th) said there was an elevated risk of "a terrorist attack against the kingdom because of the growing number of Moroccans belonging to extremist organisations in Syria and Iraq".

"The leaders of the Moroccan fighters in Syria and Iraq are making no secret of their intention to carry out a terrorist plot against Morocco, and they also aim to give support to other terrorist movements active in the Sahel," Hassad told a cabinet meeting in Rabat.

It is likely that these militants will seek help from terrorist groups operating in North Africa or Moroccan extremists who have declared their allegiance to ISIS, the minister said.

"Other information indicates that some terrorist groups are planning to develop explosives, which cannot be detected by electronic detection systems," Hassad added.

To counter this new terrorist threat, all government authorities in Morocco have been told to step up surveillance and increase the security presence at vital locations within the public and private sectors, Communications Minister and government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said July 10th.

An awareness campaign will be launched to explain the impact of these threats to Moroccans, El Khalfi added. He called on political parties and civil society to join in the effort.

According to Imad Attalbi, an analyst of Islamist affairs, "the information relayed by the interior ministry should not surprise anyone, because among the jihadists belonging to ISIS, Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, there are many Moroccans".

Some now plan to head home to the kingdom, Attalbi told Magharebia.

This poses an imminent danger that necessitates a high level of security vigilance, "especially since these jihadists have learnt how to handle weapons, produce explosives and wage guerrilla warfare", he concluded.

"Vigilance is still essential, but what is now more important is dissuading young people from vowing allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and close surveillance of jihadists returning to their home countries so that they do not act as satellites of the self-styled caliph," political analyst Abdellah L'Ouali said.

Islamic scholar Ahmed Raissouni also denounced the self-styled "caliph".

"Al-Baghdadi's declaration is just an illusion, and what is more, everything that comes of violence can only bring misfortune for the Muslim world," he said.

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