Abdelhak Khiame, Head of Morocco’s counterterrorism agency, the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), said that the Kingdom is working on a new strategy to track Moroccans who become radicalized in Europe as part of beefed-up counterterrorism measures.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Khiame noted that the crackdown on radicalized individuals abroad comes in the aftermath of the Catalonia attacks, which were perpetrated by Spanish extremists of Moroccan origin.
“Really, I was frightened by what we saw happen in Barcelona. They were all youths of Moroccan origin, their parents were Moroccan but they themselves had no connection to Morocco other than their origin and their family,” Khiame told AP.
He said Morocco, as a “key player in the global anti-extremism struggle, is monitoring and gathering intelligence on foreign fighters who joined terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Libya.
In this respect, he said the BCIJ is cracking down on foreign fighters and has arrested 85 men and 14 women after their return from the ranks of terrorist groups.
Khiame also warned of a risk of “reverse terrorism,” or Moroccan emigrants who become radicalized in Europe then come to Morocco to stage attacks.
He cited the example of a man who embraced extremism while living in Catalonia and who was interrogated by Moroccan authorities after the Barcelona attacks, and found to be plotting violence in Morocco.
Khiame said the man had no link to the Barcelona attacks, which left 16 people dead after a partially failed attempt by a network of teens and other young Spaniards to set off explosions in the area.
The BCIJ was instrumental in helping French police find a leading suspect in the November 2015 attacks on the Bataclan Theater, cafes and a stadium in Paris.