Saturday, July 05, 2014

Moroccan News Briefs #117

King tops the list of most influential people in the world in 2014 

In a poll conducted by the International Council on Human Rights, King Mohammed VI came top of the rankings with  37,810 votes, ahead of Angela Merkel and Barack Obama.  Vladimir Putin took 4th place, followed by the first Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan,  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait, Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

King Mohammed VI, in 2013, made the Top 5 in the classification of the world's most influential Muslim personalities.

 Morocco bans preachers mixing politics and religion 

A new law regulating the activity of religious preachers was published in the Official Gazette of the Kingdom, dated July 1.  It aims at tightening the control of Imams and preachers giving sermons in mosques each Friday.

The text of the strictly prohibits imams belonging to any political or trade union body throughout the period of performance of their duties in mosques which are controlled by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

Imams are required, also, not to express any political and trade union position and avoid any action which might constitute an obstacle to the practice of the precepts of Islam.

Given that the Moroccan government is led by a prime minister from the PJD, the moderate Islamist party close to the AKP (Turkey), Ennahda (Tunisia) and the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt), the backing of King Mohammed VI gives this new law special emphasis.

Reporting on the new Moroccan law the Tunisian media called for their politicians to have the courage to follow the example of the King of Morocco. In the past Imams from Tunisia have received training in Morocco.

Regional Security boosted after "caliphate" announced

According to the news site, El Khabar,  a security source claims that ten states, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Egypt, have increased their aerial and satellite surveys of northern Mali, Libya and parts of northern Niger to identify the location of an expected summit of the top jihadist groups in North Africa.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) just declared its support for the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a video posted last Friday, al-Qaeda’s Maghreb affiliate expressed its support for “the mujahedeen” in Iraq. The message implicitly criticized al-Qaeda central and other branches for not publicly supporting the rising terror organization. Abu Abdullah Othman al-Asemi, AQIM’s “judge” for the central region, addressed ISIS in the video, saying his companions “want to link with you.”

“You’re dearer to us than our own families and relatives and we always pray for you,” the AQIM figure said. Al-Asemi, whose real name is unknown and who is believed to have recently joined the group led by Abdalmalek Droukdel, added: “We’re still waiting for al-Qaeda branches here and there to show their position and declare support for you.”

The phrase “show their position” carries an indirect call to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to reveal his stance on the Levantine jihadist group. In another implied reference to al-Qaeda leadership, al-Asemi said: “As those concerned have been silent, we wanted to show our position…so the mujahedeen of ISIS may know that we won’t let them down.”

The video carried nothing indicating that AQIM wanted to support ISIS with fighters and weapons, or provide any type of assistance other than moral support. Yet it shows that there is an organizational break with the al-Zawahiri-led network. There has clearly been no communication between al-Qaeda central and the Maghreb branch on the issue of ISIS and what it is doing in Iraq.

Many experts believe that AQIM’s declaration of support for ISIS was an indication of looming regional changes that may eventually prompt the group to change itself from a branch of al-Qaeda to a branch under the command of “the caliph of Muslims.”

“AQIM is confident that things will change and that an Islamic state in the Arab Maghreb may be declared,” retired military officer Taher ben Thamer said. “Therefore, it is rushing to act so it can win the leading position in the new jihadist organization that will be created on the ruins of pro-al-Qaeda organizations. I don't know exactly what form the new organization will have; however, it will certainly not be restricted to North Africa, but will extend to Sahel countries, West Africa and Somalia to form an Islamic state comprising several African states,” he added.

Moroccan, Spanish, Dutch and Belgian police dismantle illegal immigration network

An international network organising illegal entry of immigrants into Europe from the countries of North Africa was dismantled last Wednesday in a joint operation between the Moroccan police and the Spanish, Dutch and Belgians. Eight people of Algerian and Moroccan origin were arrested during this operation.

Two members of this network were arrested in Morocco, two in the Netherlands, while four people were arrested in Spain.

According to the Spanish news agency Europa Press, the network using real Dutch, Belgian, French and German passports was adapting them in a laboratory in Brussels.  The passports were then sold for between 8,000 and 10,000 euros and allowed their bearer to access the Schengen zone freely and without problems.

The investigation began a few years ago after a police received information that a network composed of several Maghreb residents of the Netherlands had organised facilitate illegal entry into Europe for  North African citizens, especially Moroccans.

Passports are sent to Morocco where they are delivered to recipients. The network then sent the individuals to board the Ceuta ferry crossing to Algeciras. During this journey network members accompanied migrants until they crossed the Spanish border and paid the final installment for the false passport.

Morocco brings in the breathalyser

This is one of the great innovations of this summer and rather odd for a Muslim country where alcohol is considered "haram". The move had been in the pipeline for years and it is believed that the breathalysers were imported but not used until now. The current government has decided to take action.

Mohamed Najib Boulif, Deputy Minister for Transport, announced the move to have the breathalyzer on the roads during the summer season. The minister made the announcement during the presentation of the action plan for the fight against road accidents during the summer, after a meeting of the Interministerial Committee for Road Safety,held on Wednesday and chaired by the head of government, Abdelilah Benkirane.

The government intends to accompany the introduction of breathalyzers with a publicity campaign raise awareness. At the same time radar traps will be increased and spread to all roads experiencing heavy traffic during the summer.

But one of the key innovations of the action plan is the  establishment of medical intervention units in known danger areas. Given that 20% of victims die during their evacuation to hospitals, the goal is to reduce response time in the event of an accident and provide first aid on site.

Morocco has managed to reverse the trend of accidents. The statistics for the first five months of 2014 have revived the hopes of reducing  the number of deaths on the roads for the second consecutive year. According to the ministry, the number of fatal accidents recorded during this period a decrease of 0.88%.

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