Morocco confirms the first jihadist attack in five years

Three suspected jihadists of the Islamic State have been arrested in Morocco accused of the murder of a policeman, whose charred body was found in Casablanca in early March.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
16 March 2023 Thursday 04:27
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Morocco confirms the first jihadist attack in five years

Three suspected jihadists of the Islamic State have been arrested in Morocco accused of the murder of a policeman, whose charred body was found in Casablanca in early March. This is the first attack of this type committed in Morocco since 2018, when three terrorists killed two young Scandinavian tourists in the Atlas Mountains.

The Moroccan authorities carry out regular operations against suspected jihadists and security institutions often appear among the plans of those detained.

According to what police sources informed EFE, in the last two decades and until today, two agents had been assassinated in two attacks. The first was a gendarme murdered in Meknés in 2003 and the second a policeman in Casablanca in 2007.

The attack reported on Wednesday by the Moroccan authorities occurred earlier this month in Casablanca, when three men killed a traffic officer and then burned his body to try to hide the crime.

Initially, local media reported on a common crime that allegedly involved drug traffickers.

According to the DGSN, the three suspects intended to steal their service weapon to rob a bank branch. The three men, arrested on Thursday, had expressed their allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State and "were determined to carry out a local terrorist project," Morocco's internal intelligence service (DGST) said in a statement.

To do this, they targeted this agent, whom they intended to kill and steal his weapon to later dock a ship.

According to Moroccan analyst Driss Gamburi, a specialist in extremist groups, security forces and authorities have always been targeted by terrorists, considering them "supporters of apostate regimes."

For Abdelouahab Rafiki, also a specialist in jihadism, this fact indicates that extremist ideology continues to exist in Morocco, which is why he urges redoubling the anti-terrorist effort in the country. "It is a serious act because it was committed against an agent who represents power and the State," he says.

In October of last year, the Moroccan authorities reported the arrest of five people loyal to the Islamic State in various towns in the country who were targeting troops and security institutions.

And a month earlier, in another operation with the United States security services, a 29-year-old young man was arrested in Casablanca for planning to appropriate firearms from police officers to use them in terrorist actions.

The last jihadist attack in Morocco occurred in 2018, when three young men beheaded two Nordic tourists in a mountainous area near Marrakech. For this cause, 25 people were sentenced to between five years in prison and the death penalty (which is not applied in practice in Morocco).

The members of that cell targeted foreigners, but also planned to attack Royal Gendarmerie patrols and police posts.

Between the 2018 attack against the two Nordic tourists and the previous one registered in Morocco, seven years passed. It was in 2011 in a cafe in the southern city of Marrakech, when 17 people died when a device planted by a terrorist exploded.

In January 2022, a Moroccan man stabbed a French woman and assaulted a Belgian woman in two attacks on the same day in the southern cities of Tiznit and Agadir, before being arrested.

The case was initially investigated as a terrorist by the Rabat court specializing in terrorism, but the Moroccan courts did not finally judge the author, considering that he had mental problems and ordered his admission to a psychiatric hospital, something that has happened in similar cases.

Morocco continuously carries out anti-terrorist operations, the most recent in February, when a man was arrested for exaltation in the northern town of Castillejos, on the border with the Spanish city of Ceuta, from whom a large sword and several knives.

Also in February, three radical Islamists were arrested for imposing a "revolutionary tax" on merchants from Fez to allow them to carry out their activities, and in January, in a joint Spanish-Moroccan operation, an Islamic State cell with three members was dismantled in the south of Morocco and southern Spain.