Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Morocco ~ Security Update

With recent events the region and in particular the attacks in Tunisia, Morocco has increased its security operations. And in a spectacular success just two days after it was officially set up, the Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation or BCIJ have dismantled a major terrorist cell

Part of proactive counter-terrorism efforts, the newly set-up BCIJ (described as Morocco's FBI) arrested the alleged terrorist cell members who were operating in the cities of Agadir, Tangier, Laayoune, Boujaad, Tifelt, Marrakech, Taroudant, Ain Harouda and Eastern Laayoune.

While Moroccan security has an extremely good track record, the same can not be said for the Spanish occupied enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. According to the BCIJ the terrorist cell they dismantled had brought arms in through Melilla in order to carry out attacks for the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.

Abdelhak Khiame

The cell was made up of 13 members aged between 19 and 37, most of them without primary school education, said Abdelhak Khiame, head of the BCIJ who told reporters that 440 rounds of ammunition, six pistols, 31 handcuffs and electronic equipment were seized at a cache near Agadir.

Moroccan authorities had been watching the suspects for over five months, but Abdelhak Khiame said that it was not yet clear if they were linked to cells in Europe.

For its part, Spain says it has dismantled several networks, particularly in Melilla and Ceuta, recruiting fighters for the Islamic State. The two enclaves, the only land borders between Africa and Europe, attract thousands of mostly sub-Saharan Africans trying to reach European countries.

The interior ministry said on Sunday the Moroccan cell was dismantled in a nationwide operation and that the arms seized were to have been used for a string of assassinations.

Large amount of ammunition

The announcement of the seizures and arrests followed last Wednesday's attack on the national museum in the capital of fellow North African state Tunisia, claimed by ISIS.

The Moroccan government is quoted by the official MAP news agency says,"The firearms and a large amount of ammunition was to be used to assassinate political, military and civilian figures."

It said members of the dismantled network had pledged allegiance to IS and vowed to target the Moroccan security forces and send recruits to fight in Syria and Iraq. According to official figures, between 1 500 and 2 000 Moroccans are fighting or have fought alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria as well as in Libya.

Thirteen individuals were arrested in the dismantling operation of a terrorist cell operating in several Moroccan cities on Sunday, the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), an offshoot of Morocco’s domestic intelligence agency (DGST) said.

The Director of the newly created BCIJ Abdelhak Khiame said at a press briefing in Salé. that the arrested individuals named their terrorist cell as “Wilayat Adawla Al Islamiya fi bilad Al Maghrib Al Aqsa – Ahfad Youssef Ibn Tachfin” (The Islamic State in the Western Maghreb – the descendants of Youssef Ibn Tachfin) and were scheming to launch a terrorist plan undermining the security and stability of the Kingdom.

The seized objects include six automatic pistols of different calibres, 8 computers which will later be analysed at the laboratory of the scientific and technical police, 2 hard discs, 3G modems, USB keys, 18 mobile phones, 14 SIM cards, binoculars, a camera, and CDs and DVDs.

Targeted: Amazigh and Secular activist, Ahmed Assid

The terrorist cell planned to assassinate many Moroccan politicians and public figures, including the Amazigh and Secular activist, Ahmed Assid. “Ahmed Assid was on the top of the cell’s targets,” Abdelhak Khiame said.

He went on to add that the terrorist cell was attempting to kill several Moroccan civil, political and military figures. The terrorist schemes included the perpetration of 119 bombings, the assassination of 109 personalities, seven kidnappings and 41 fire arm attacks, the BCIJ director said. He confirmed that the list of targets did not include any cabinet members but did not reveal the names of the other targets that were on the cell’s list because the investigations are still underway.

Some 132 terrorist cells have been busted by Moroccan security services over 2002-2015. Over the same period, dismantlement operations resulted in foiling 276 terrorist plans and the arrest of 2,720 individuals, he said.

As for Moroccan fighters within the ranks of terrorist groups, Khiame said that their number stand at 1,354 of whom 200 are former prisoners, 246 were killed in Syria and 40 in Iraq adding that 156 have returned to Morocco.

Khiame added that 185 women joined ISIS along with 135 children

Israeli authorities say Morocco is safe for Israeli tourists

The Israeli Bureau Against Terrorism, which is part of Israel's National Security Council, has issued a warning to Israelis intending to travel abroad on the eve of celebrations of Passover and the upcoming spring break.

The Bureau advises Israelis to avoid countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Kenya, Egypt or Nigeria. "The Israelis at present in these regions are warned to leave as soon as possible," says the Israeli Bureau. This warning,  sources say, is based on "solid and reliable information and tangible threats," and that the next Israeli holidays could be a pretext for terrorist attacks against Israel and Jewish targets.

Morocco, on the other hand is not included in the list as it is seen a a safe destination

Many Israelis traditionally travel abroad during the period which runs from the Jewish Passover (April 3 to 10) to the holiday of Shavuot (May 24).

Thankfully, Morocco remains a safe and welcoming tourist destination

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