Magharebia (Washington DC)

25 July 2014

Morocco: Moroccan Jihadists Turn to Crime

Casablanca — Moroccan terrorists and religious extremists are growing dependent on criminal activities to finance their operations.

The latest example of the trend comes from Fes, where security services on Wednesday (July 23rd) arrested five men in the Bensouda neighbourhood. The cell was engaged in criminal activities to finance their operations, according to authorities.

"The members embraced jihadi salafism and were carrying out attacks on citizens using bladed weapons and masks," the Moroccan interior ministry said.

The criminal activities were a revenue source for the cell's activities, according to authorities.

The al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM)-affiliated gang will be tried pursuant to criminal as well as terrorism laws, le360.ma reported.

Similar cases have been discovered in recent months. In the past, terror cells depended more on collecting donations to finance their activities.

In March, the judicial police dismantled a criminal network in Fes and Sefrou. Former terror detainees and other cell members were accused of committing financial fraud against commercial institutions, including telecom companies, in order to fund the recruitment and transport of jihadists to Syria.

The same month, authorities dismantled another cell in northern Morocco. It specialised in stealing and forging passports for jihadist recruits headed to Syria.

In May, a jihadist in Mrirt was arrested for "hacking credit cards to steal money and send it to armed groups in Syria", the interior ministry said.

It happened again last month. Morocco security services dismantled a cell "dealing in smuggled commodities to secure necessary financial support to finance the travel of recruits to Syria", officials said.

"Since last year, the recruitment and despatch of fighters to Syria have taken unprecedented dimensions in Morocco," researcher Mouhcine Abdelwahed said. "This has led to an increase in financial needs to fund these operations that could no longer be covered by the proceeds of donations alone. Therefore, terror cells had to find new ways of financing."

"Those people accuse the entire Moroccan society of kufr," Abdelwahed added. "Those terrorists believe that any violence they engage in against this Moroccan society is some sort of jihad that will bring them closer to paradise, and look at every theft or looting they engage in as a spoil of war."

Morocco launched a financial intelligence unit, which has tightened the noose on groups moving illegal money, he said.

And since funding sources for terror cells are drying up, the extremists are resorting to crime, Abdelwahaed noted.

The new developments in Syria and Iraq, reflected by horrific pictures and videos on social networking websites, as well as infighting between jihadist groups, have reduced sympathy - and thus donations- to terrorists, he added.

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