The involvement of Moroccan radicalised youth in terrorist attacks in Europe stands in stark contrast to the vigilance of Moroccan security at home, which managed to thwart attacks by terrorist cells before they move into action. In an article on this dichotomy, the Financial Times deems that the increasing attacks by Moroccan terrorists in Europe is a result of their incapacity to operate in Morocco and also a consequence of the global foreign fighters phenomenon in the Middle East.
The paper notes that despite the fact that all perpetrators of the recent Catalonia attacks are of Moroccan origins, yet in Morocco, there have been no significant attacks since the bombing of a tourist restaurant in Marrakesh in 2011 that killed 17 people.
“The Moroccan security services have dismantled dozens of cells recruiting fighters for ISIS in Syria,” says the paper, adding that analysts say jihadi groups have found it increasingly difficult to operate in the country since the authorities started beefing up and professionalising their security apparatus.
Quoting Issandr el-Amrani, north Africa director at the International Crisis Group, the paper said that “Morocco has been very successful at driving deep underground any major al-Qaeda or ISIS group,” noting that “There hasn’t been a single successful attack since the formation of ISIS [in 2014]. Moroccan jihadis have largely gone to fight abroad, rather than stay at home because the security lockdown is too pervasive.”
The paper highlights that Morocco began to tighten the grip on foreign fighters joining ISIS in Syria and Iraq in 2014 by tightening security at borders and strengthening antiterrorism laws to impose heavy jail terms and fines on anyone who travelled to join militant groups abroad.
However, Amrani notes that despite the involvement of Moroccan jihadis in terrorism operations in Europe and the large number of Moroccans who became foreign fighters in Syria, there has been no evidence so far that the attacks in Europe were plotted by groups in Morocco.