Cablegate: Morocco: 2008 Country Reports On Terrorism

DE RUEHRB #1180/01 3571630
R 221630Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 124815
B. STATE 124033
C. STATE 120019

RABAT 00001180 001.2 OF 005

1. (SBU) In response to Ref C request, this cable
constitutes Embassy Morocco's draft submission for the 2008
Country Reports on Terrorism (see paragraphs below). The
report is also being uploaded to Diplopedia. The Embassy
Morocco point of contact for this report is David O'Connor

2. (U) Summary: There were no terrorist attacks in Morocco
in 2008, and no large-scale damages since the Casablanca
bombings of 2003. The disruption of relatively small and
isolated Salafi Jihadist-inspired groups this year points to
the need for continued vigilance, but the GOM's CT efforts
have done a good job of minimizing the threat. Morocco
pursues a comprehensive CT approach that emphasizes vigilant
security measures, including international cooperation, and
counter-radicalization policies. The disruptions of
terrorist cells in Morocco are testament to the rejection of
them by the Moroccan public and to the competence of
Morocco,s security services. The main external terrorism
threat to Morocco is the Algeria and Mali-based al-Qa,ida in
the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb terrorist group, along with
concerns about Moroccan emigres radicalized in Europe. The
Government of Morocco (GOM) has been stalwart in its
partnership with the U.S. to combat terrorism since the 9/11
attacks. End Summary.

3. (U) Internal Threat: There were no terrorist attacks in
Morocco in 2008, and no large-scale damages since the
Casablanca bombings of 2003. Characteristics of groups
disrupted by Moroccan authorities, however, support previous
analysis that Morocco,s threat of terrorist attack continues
to stem from the existence of numerous small "grassroots"
Salafi Jihadist-inspired groups. These groups, sometimes
referred collectively as adherents to Moroccan Salafia
Jihadia ideology (a catch-all term used by Moroccan
authorities to describe fundamentalist teachings originally
emanating from the eastern Arab world), remain, isolated from
one another, small in size -- less than 50 individuals -- and
tactically limited. Morocco has no known safe haven areas
within its borders for terrorism and there has been no known
effort by Moroccan terrorist groups to acquire weapons of
mass destruction.

4. (U) External Threat: In terms of Moroccan terrorists
receiving external support, the Algeria and Mali-based
al-Qa,ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
terrorist group represents the principle threat, according to
Moroccan authorities, although others exist. There are
reports of considerable numbers of Moroccans going to
northern Mali and Algeria to receive training from AQIM
elements with some returning to Morocco and others traveling
to Iraq to conduct terrorist attacks. Although AQIM has been
unable to support a successful terrorist attack in Morocco to
date, Moroccan authorities remain concerned about the
inspiration and knowledge transfer that AQIM may be providing
to Moroccan Salafi Jihadists. In 2008, AQIM repeatedly tried
to incite Moroccans to commit violence against their
government through website propaganda. Similar propaganda
efforts by the Pakistan-based al-Qa,ida network also
continued in 2008. Foreign terrorist websites have singled
out for criticism royal rule itself, and have also complained
about the Spanish enclaves, a position which, however, is
similar to GOM,s. The GOM also remains concerned about
numbers of veteran Moroccan jihadists returning from Iraq to
propagate and conduct terrorist attacks at home. While
overall numbers of Moroccans fighting in Iraq are difficult
to confirm, some press reporting puts the number at several
hundred. A further cause of concern is Moroccans who were
radicalized during their stays in Western Europe, such as
those connected with the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

5. (SBU) Morocco,s Counterterrorism Efforts: The GOM is
pursuing a comprehensive CT approach that, building on
popular rejection of terrorism, emphasizes neutralizing
existing terrorist cells, through traditional law enforcement
and pre-emptive security measures, and preventing terrorist
recruitment through comprehensive counter-radicalization
policies. In 2008, Rabat continued to aggressively target
and dismantle terrorist cells within the Kingdom by
leveraging policing techniques, coordinating and focusing the
security services, and expanding and bolstering regional CT
partnerships. These efforts resulted in the neutralization
of numerous Salafia Jihadia-inspired terrorist groups the
most prominent of which are as follows.

RABAT 00001180 002.2 OF 005

-- In February 2008, Moroccan authorities arrested a
36-person strong terrorist network in the cities of Nador,
Rabat, Marakesh and Casablanca. In addition to attack
plotting against Moroccan and Western targets, group leader
and de facto double-agent Moroccan-Belgium Abdelkader
Belliraj, now in Moroccan custody, is suspected of
participating in a bank robbery and half a dozen
assassinations in Europe and smuggling arms into Morocco.

-- In May, an 11-member terrorist group plotting attacks in
Morocco and Belgium was dismantled in Belgium.

-- In July, the security services arrested, in various
cities, 35 members of a terrorist network specializing in the
recruitment of volunteers for Iraq.

-- In August, another 15-person network calling itself Fath
al-Andalus was reportedly disbanded in Laayoune, Western
Sahara and various cities in Morocco. The group was
allegedly planning bombing attacks against United Nations
peacekeeping forces in Western Sahara and tourists sites in

-- In December, authorities reportedly arrested five members
of a terrorist cell in the northeastern Moroccan city of
Berkane, along with nine other group members in other cities,
who were allegedly preparing to rob banks in order to acquire
arms for terrorist acts.

6. (U) In addition to traditional security measures,
Morocco's King Mohammed VI has promoted significant efforts
to reduce extremism and dissuade individuals from becoming
radicalized. The vast majority of Moroccans are devout Sunni
Muslims who practice the Malikite rite, a school of Islam
that emphasizes moderation, tolerance, and mediation. Their
popular practice has proven to be resistant to the spread of
radical ideology and terrorism in Morocco. Ordinary citizens
providing tips to Moroccan security authorities have been
instrumental in detecting many terrorist groups in Morocco,
according to Interior Ministry sources.

7. (U) The King, as head of state and as the country's
foremost religious leader (holding the title of "Commander of
the Faithful"), has led the preventative aspects of
Morocco,s CT effort by unambiguously condemning terrorism
and those who espouse it. Under the king's guidance, Morocco
has undertaken two phases of reform to "restructure the
religious sector" to preserve Morocco,s spiritual security.
After the 2003 Casablanca bombings, Morocco steadily
increased attention to and focused on upgrading places of
worship, modernization of the teaching of Islam, and
strengthening the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs.
In September 2008, a radical cleric issued a highly
inflammatory fatwa (religious opinion) that asserted the
validity of marriage of girls, as young as nine-years old.
Moroccan authorities responded aggressively by discrediting
Sheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al Maghraoui, previously known
for his fundamentalist and eastern-inspired views, closing
down approximately 60 Koranic schools under his supervision,
and initiating an official inquiry into his competence. In
addition, the public prosecutor's office initiated a criminal
case against him for encouraging pedophilia. The Council of
Ulemas, Morocco,s highest religious body, was charged by the
King, who is its leader, to "combat the hoaxes peddled by
proponents of extremism," and to ensure the safeguarding of
Morocco,s tolerant Sunni Islam identity.

8. (U) After this event and in a speech to the Higher
Council of Ulema in late September, the King announced his
"proximity strategy," calling for the rehabilitation of 3,180
mosques, the training of 33,000 imams, and the creation of
additional local Councils of Ulema, increasing the number of
regional councils from 30 to 70 across Morocco, to help
propagate a culture of religious tolerance and confront
extremism. The pioneering experiment, begun in 2007, of
training and using women as spiritual guides continued this
year. The GOM has also continued efforts this year to revive
the once widespread practice of Sufi Islam, a practice
focused on the mystical and spiritual aspects of Islam, and
traditional practices in Morocco to counter the growing
influence of "eastern Islam," among marginalized poor, though
this effort has been criticized, according to press reports,
by some religious commentators.

9. (U) As an external part of the king,s new religious
policy, in October the GOM invited Moroccan-born imams from
the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden for religious

RABAT 00001180 003.2 OF 005

instruction in Morocco aimed at reinforcing the precepts of
moderate Islam in local mosques in order to combat extremism,
particularly among youth. The GOM also sent 167 Moroccan
imams to Europe, 31 to Belgium alone, during Ramadan this
year to deliver the same message to Moroccan expatriates.
Although the GOM has been sending preachers to Europe for
years, this latest batch were specifically selected to
address extremism and fanaticism. In addition, the Moroccan
Council of Ulemas will soon create a department that will
watch over the more than 3 million Moroccans, i.e., 10% of
the total population of Morocco, whose situation as
immigrants in Europe is seen as making them particularly
vulnerable to extremism.

-- The GOM, and frequently the King himself, regularly and
strongly condemns terrorist acts, wherever they occur. The
King has been particularly articulate in the wake of attacks
in neighboring Algeria, in expressions of sympathy for, and
solidarity with, foreign governments and with the victims.

10. (U) Political Developments: The King and his government
continue to be strong supporters of Middle East peace. In
addition to being a leading advocate of inter-religious
tolerance, the King has also been a vocal supporter of the
Palestinian people. (Note: The perceived injustice faced by
the Palestinian people is cited by Moroccan officials as the
single greatest radicalizing element among Moroccan
extremists.) Although the Parliament continues to remain in
need of strengthening and reform, it has nonetheless provided
a forum for airing moderate Islamist-inspired views in a
political setting, offering a counter-example to Salafi
Jihadist rhetoric. The conservative Party of Justice and
Development is the second largest political party in the
Moroccan Parliament.

11. (U) Economic Developments: In 2008, the GOM continued
to implement internal reforms aimed at ameliorating
socio-economic factors that create conditions which can
contribute to individuals being attracted to extremism. The
National Initiative for Human Development, launched by the
King in 2005, is a $1.2 billion program designed to generate
employment, combat poverty, and improve infrastructure, with
a special focus on rural areas. The king,s continuous
personal attention to development efforts received prominent
coverage throughout the year. The GOM also recognizes that
its economic development and reform efforts depend on a
sufficiently educated and trained work force and has adopted
several high-priority efforts to overhaul primary, secondary,
and university curricula to better prepare Morocco,s youth
for the future.

12. (U) Legal Reforms: Moroccan efforts to combat terrorism
were overhauled after the coordinated suicide bombings in
Casablanca in May 2003. Following the attacks, Morocco
passed laws to broaden the definition of terrorism, proposed
heavy sentences for inciting terrorism, and increased
investigative authorities, powers against suspected
terrorists. (Note: Some human rights groups say the measures
infringe on human rights, according to the media.)

13. (U) In 2008, Morocco implemented elements of a
comprehensive anti-money-laundering bill passed in May of
last year that provides the legal basis for the monitoring,
investigation, and prosecution of illegal financial
activities. The new laws also allow for freezing suspect
accounts and permit the prosecution of terrorist finance
related crimes. The law also calls for the establishment of
a Financial Intelligence Unit, which may become operational
in 2009. Both U.S. and EU programs are providing Moroccan
police, customs, central bank, and government financial
officials with training to recognize money-laundering
methodologies. Morocco has a relatively effective system for
disseminating U.S. Government and UN Security Council
Resolution terrorist freeze lists to its financial sector and
legal authorities. Morocco has provided timely reports
requested by the UN Sanctions Committee and, as a result, has
frozen some terrorist-related accounts.

14. (U) Human Rights and Transparency: The GOM has
emphasized adherence to human rights standards and increased
law enforcement transparency as part of its CT approach. The
GOM grants non-governmental organizations unprecedented
access to prisons where individuals convicted of
terrorism-related crimes were being held. CT investigations
and arrests appeared to be better targeted and legal
proceedings more transparent throughout the year. The GOM
has made firm public commitments that the struggle against
terrorism will not be used to deprive individuals of their

RABAT 00001180 004.2 OF 005

rights. Terrorist suspects, and even convicts, like others,
appear to be generally accorded rights and due process of law.

15. (U) Legal Prosecutions: Moroccan laws have been
effective in leading to numerous convictions and the
upholding of convictions of multiple terrorism-related cases
in 2008. For example, in January, 50 defendants in the
sensational 2007 Answar al-Mehdi terror conspiracy trial were
convicted and sentenced to prison. Alleged mastermind Hassan
al-Khattab received a 25-year sentence. Forty-nine others,
including four women and several members of the security
forces, received sentences of two to ten years. In November,
the appeals court in Sale upheld the life sentence handed
down last October of would-be suicide bomber Hicham Doukkali,
who was wounded in August 2007 when his booby-trapped butane
canister exploded in the central city of Meknes. In June, a
court convicted 29 men belonging to a terrorist group known
as the "Tetouan Cell," after its northern Moroccan town of
origin, for plotting terrorist attacks. An appeals court
also upheld the prison sentences, ranging from two to six
years, of members of the terrorist group "Jamaat al
Mouslimoun al Joudoud," who were arrested in 2005 on
terrorism-related charges.

16. (U) Prison Conditions: Following the mass escape in
March of eight Salafist prisoners, and concerned the Moroccan
prisons were serving as a place of radical fundamentalist
networking and plotting, the GOM in April 2008 created a new
ministerial-level Directorate General of Prison Affairs,
separating it from the Ministry of Justice. By the end of
the year, all but one of the escapees had been recaptured.
One was arrested in and returned from Algeria, according to
press. In mid-November, the government announced the
authorization of a $27.5 million emergency program, on top of
an existing $81.5 million investment budget, designed to
improve prison conditions and alleviate overcrowding. In
addition to providing for the construction of six new
penitentiaries, the program dedicates funds toward the
government strategy of making new and existing penitentiaries
spaces for reeducation and social reintegration into society.
In addition, in November 2008, Moroccan law enforcement
entities initiated an unprecedented series of meetings with
Salafist detainees with the goal of decreasing prison
conflicts and violent recidivism, and improving prisoner

17. (U) Counterterrorism Cooperation: Another key to
Morocco,s CT success has been its emphasis on international
cooperation. The U.S. and Morocco built a valuable
relationship based on cooperation, an ongoing exchange of
information, and training. Moroccan authorities continue to
disrupt plots to attack Moroccan, U.S. and other
Western-affiliated targets, and aggressively investigate
numerous individuals associated with international terrorist
groups. The GOM has also continued to accept returnees from
the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) and
prosecute them under Moroccan law. In mid-November, for
example, a Moroccan appeals court sentenced former GITMO
detainee Said Boujaidia to ten years in prison on charges of
conspiracy, sabotage, financing and participating in a
criminal gang, among others, according to the press.

18. (U) Morocco has also forged solid cooperative
relationships with European and African partners such as
Spain, France, and the United Kingdom with which it shares
information and conducts joint operations. Morocco is
considered a Mediterranean Partner of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization and the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe. Morocco also works closely with
African partners such as Mauritania and Senegal and is
striving to improve its less robust relationship with
Algeria, a dynamic sometimes complicated by political
differences, according the Moroccan authorities. The GOM
uses army and Ministry of Interior paramilitary forces to
secure its borders as best it can but faces resource
constraints and a vast border area. The GOM removed and
prosecuted several corrupt border officers suspected this
year of accepting bribes to allow AQIM members to infiltrate
Morocco, according to the press.

-- In the wake of an AQIM attack that killed 12 Mauritanian
soldiers in the region of Tourine in mid-September, the GOM
sent military advisors to Mauritania to provide the
government with training and advice on the protection of
military bases and patrolling techniques, according to the

19. (U) Outlook: In the coming year, there are several

RABAT 00001180 005.2 OF 005

reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the overall
amelioration of the terrorism threat in Morocco but dangers
remain. In addition to the GOM,s continued prosecution of
its CT and counter-radicalization efforts, the population
remains highly sensitized to the danger and remains the
greatest bulwark against terrorism, as evidenced by the rapid
denunciation and recapture of most Kenitra prison escapees.
The anticipated draw down of U.S. forces in Iraq may
discourage radicalization among Moroccans, but amelioration
of tensions in Iraq may also result in the return of Moroccan
jihadists from Iraq to Morocco with possibly violent results.
The anticipated world economic downturn is also likely to
make for more difficult economic times in Morocco, increasing
desperation. Diminished tourism and remittance income may
present the GOM with confronting increased poverty and
unemployment, conditions that appear to have aided
fundamentalist recruitment in the past.

20. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.

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