Morocco was hailed by the United States as a “stable security-exporting partner in North Africa” thanks to its adoption of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy and the vigilance of its security services.
“Morocco is a stable security-exporting partner in North Africa and is the only African nation to contribute military assets to the Defeat-ISIS Coalition campaign in Syria and Iraq,” underscored the US State Department in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016.
Morocco has treated counterterrorism as “a top priority” and has undertaken efforts that have “ effectively mitigated the risk of terrorism” in 2016, said the US State Department, noting that Moroccan authorities dismantled 18 terrorist cells and conducted 161 terrorism-related arrests in 2016, including of Algerian, Chadian, French, and Italian nationals.
The report highlights facets of the success of Morocco’s counterterrorism strategy, which rests notably on adapting legislation to address the foreign terrorist fighter threat, countering the financing of terrorism, fighting violent extremism and strengthening regional and international cooperation.
At the legislative level, the document underscores the adoption by Morocco in 2015 of a law to address the foreign terrorist fighter threat by widening the definition of terrorist offenses to cover terrorist acts or attempts to join a terrorist group and involvement in recruitment and training activities, making it compliant with UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 2178 (2014).
“Moroccan authorities reported approximately 1,500 Moroccan nationals are foreign terrorist fighters. As a result of increased international cooperation and vigilance by Moroccan authorities, and consistent with global trends on foreign terrorist fighters, only a few Moroccans departed for Iraq or Syria in 2016,” the report underlined.
The US State Department also shed light on the key role played by the Moroccan Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), since its establishment in 2015, as the primary law enforcement agency responsible for counterterrorism law enforcement. The BCIJ conducted operations in cooperation with international partners leading to numerous disruptions of alleged terrorist cells and prosecutions of associated individuals, adds the document.
Morocco is also demonstrating success in detecting terrorist financing, notes the report, saying that the Kingdom is “a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Its financial intelligence unit, the Unité de Traitement du Renseignement Financier (UTRF), is a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Morocco criminalizes money laundering violations in accordance with international standards and actively uses the statutes to detect terrorist financing,” underscores the report.
At the level of countering violent extremism, Morocco adopts a comprehensive approach that prioritizes economic and human development goals in addition to tight control of the religious sphere and messaging, the document stated, adding that the Kingdom launched a reform of the religious sphere focusing on the promotion of moderation and the training of Imams from Morocco and abroad.
“The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs has developed an educational curriculum for Morocco’s nearly 50,000 imams and Morocco is training hundreds of imams from African and European nations at its international imam training center in Rabat”.
The US State Department also commends Morocco’s contribution to international counterterrorism efforts, notably at international fora including the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) where the Kingdom co-chairs together with the Netherlands the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group.
The report also points out to Morocco’s role as a member of the Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism, and sheds light on the contribution of Morocco’s security and law enforcement officials in training forces from Sub-Saharan countries such as Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal.
“As a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally and a Mediterranean Dialogue (5+5) partner in the EU’s Barcelona Process, Morocco participates in the 5+5 Defense Initiative, which brings together five European and five North African countries to address security issues in the Mediterranean”. Morocco also participates in multilateral regional training exercises, such as the maritime-focused PHOENIX EXPRESS and the FLINTLOCK security operations exercise and hosts the annual multilateral AFRICAN LION exercise and MAGHREB MANTLET disaster response exercise, the US Department of State recalled in its report.
Morocco is also “an active member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP),” a US multi-year interagency regional program aimed at building the capacity of governments in the Maghreb and Sahel to confront threats posed by violent extremists.