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Cablegate: Morocco: 2009 Country Reports On Terrorism


DE RUEHRB #0996/01 3551404
R 211404Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 109980
B. STATE 122733

1. Morocco pursued a comprehensive counterterrorism
approach that emphasized vigilant security measures,
including international cooperation and to a lesser
degree counter-radicalization policies. Evidence
gained from Moroccan authorities' disruption of
certain groups -- and the common characteristics of
those groups -- supported previous analysis that
Morocco's threat of terrorist attack continued to
stem largely from the existence of numerous small
"grassroots" extremist cells. These groups,
sometimes referred to collectively as adherents of
Moroccan Salafia Jihadia ideology, remained isolated
from one another, small in size (less than 50
individuals each), and tactically limited. Their
international connections were also limited. The
Government of Morocco's counterterrorism efforts
have effectively reduced the threat, but the
existence of these relatively small groups pointed
to the need for continued vigilance.

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2. There were reports of Moroccans going to
northern Mali and Algeria to receive training from
elements of Al-Qa'ida in the Lands of the Islamic
Maghreb (AQIM), with some returning to Morocco but
the majority traveling to Iraq and other locations
abroad to conduct terrorist attacks. Although AQIM
has been unable to support a successful terrorist
attack in Morocco to date, Moroccan authorities
remained concerned about the "inspiration" and
knowledge transfer that AQIM may have provided to
Moroccan extremists. AQIM repeatedly tried to
incite Moroccans to commit violence against their
government through website propaganda. The
Government remained concerned about numbers of
veteran Moroccan jihadists returning from Iraq to
propagate and conduct terrorist attacks at home. 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

3. The Moroccan Government pursued a comprehensive
counterterrorism approach that, building on popular
rejection of terrorism, emphasizes neutralizing
existing terrorist cells through traditional
intelligence work and preemptive security measures.
Morocco aggressively targeted and dismantled
terrorist cells within the Kingdom by leveraging
intelligence collection, police work and
collaboration with regional and other international
partners. These efforts resulted in the
neutralization of several Salafi Jihadi-inspired
terrorist groups. Morocco's counterterrorism
efforts led to the following disruptions of alleged
terrorist cells:

-- In February, Moroccan police arrested Abdelkebir
Barka at the Mohammed V International Airport upon
his return from Syria. He was charged with forming
a terrorist cell.

-- In May, the Moroccan police arrested eight
alleged members of the terrorist group "Jamaat al
Mouslimoun al Joudoud."

-- In June, Moroccan authorities arrested five
members of a suspected terrorist cell operating in
Morocco and Spain. The group members were adherents
of Salafiya Jihadia ideology.

-- In late June, the security services arrested
eight individuals on charges of forming a terrorist
group, drug trafficking and corruption, among other
charges. The leader of the group was Abou Yassine,
a former Salafia Jihadia prisoner who had been
sentenced previously to two years in jail previously
for his involvement in the "Ansar Al Mahdi"
terrorist group. The cell operated between Morocco
and Spain, according to press reports.

-- In September, security services arrested 24
members of an alleged terrorist network linked to
Al-Qa'ida that recruited volunteers for suicide
bombings in Iraq, according to the Ministry of
Interior. The Interior Ministry stated that the
network had coordinated with terrorists in Sweden,
Belgium, Iraq and Syria and had sought recruits to
fight in Afghanistan and Somalia in addition to
Iraq. Those arrested also intended to carry out
terrorist acts in Morocco, according to the

4. In addition to traditional security measures,
Morocco's King Mohammed VI has promoted significant
efforts to reduce extremism and dissuade individuals
from becoming radicalized. Each Ramadan, for
example, the King hosts a series of religious
lectures, inviting Muslim speakers from around the
world to promote moderate and peaceful religious
interpretations. In his Throne Day speech in July,
the King highlighted the moderate and tolerant
nature of the Sunni Malekite rite, which, he
emphasized, forms an integral part of Moroccan
identity. After the 2003 Casablanca bombings,
Morocco increasingly focused on upgrading places of
worship, modernizing the teaching of Islam, and
strengthening the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic
Affairs (MOIA). Under the MOIA, the pioneering
experiment, begun in 2007, of training and using
women as spiritual guides continued. Morocco also
formed a Council of Ulema for Europe to train and
send Moroccan imams and women spiritual guides to
counter extremist messages in Moroccan expatriate
communities in Europe.

5. During the year, the Moroccan Government
continued to implement internal reforms aimed at
ameliorating the socio-economic factors that
terrorists exploit. The National Initiative for
Human Development, launched by the King in 2005, is
a USD 1.2 billion program designed to generate
employment, combat poverty, and improve
infrastructure, with a special focus on rural areas.

6. The Government of Morocco made public
commitments that the struggle against terrorism
would not be used to deprive individuals of their
rights and emphasized adherence to human rights
standards and increased law enforcement transparency
as part of its approach. The Government generally
accorded terrorist suspects and convicts their
rights and due process of law, with more access for
defense lawyers and more transparent court
proceedings than in previous years. Moroccan laws
were effective in leading to numerous convictions
and the upholding of convictions of multiple
terrorism-related cases:

-- In January, a Moroccan criminal court sentenced
Abdelmajid Zerghout to five years in prison for
forming a terrorist group. Zerghout had been an
imam in Italy before he was extradited to Morocco
for his alleged involvement in the terrorist attacks
of May 16, 2003 in Casablanca.

-- In February, a Moroccan counterterrorism court
condemned the key plotter of the Casablanca attacks,
Saad al Husseini, to 15 years in prison. His
accomplices received between three and eight years.
Then, in June, a Moroccan court raised the jail
terms of Al Husseini and five accomplices, who were
sentenced for "undermining the national security of
the State" and forming a terrorist group, to 20 and
10 years, respectively.

-- In March, a Moroccan court condemned Hassan Haski
to 10 years in prison for his involvement in the
2003 terrorist attack in Casablanca.

-- In July, Abdelkader Belliraj was condemned to
life in prison for terrorist activities,
premeditated murder, attempted murder, and
possession of illegal arms and explosives among
other charges. The other 34 members of his cell
were sentenced to between one and 30 years in
prison. According to the police, the network was
preparing to carry out acts of violence in Morocco
and abroad including assassinations of political
figures and Moroccan Jews. Belliraj is now
appealing the court's decision.

-- In September, 38 people suspected of belonging to
a network that recruited Moroccans for Iraq and
Algeria appeared before an anti-terrorist court.
Police say the suspects intended to join terrorist
groups in desert camps run by AQIM before proceeding
to Iraq.

7. As part of its comprehensive approach in
combating terrorism, Morocco is also addressing
terrorist financing. Although Morocco is not a
regional financial center, its financial sector is
integrated into international markets. Money
laundering is a concern due to the narcotics trade,
vast informal sector, trafficking in persons, and
large level of remittances from Moroccans living
abroad. The extent of the money laundering problem
in the country is unknown, but conditions exist for
it to occur. In recent years, Morocco has taken a
series of steps to address the problem, most notably
with the enactment of a terrorism finance (CFT) law
in May 2003; with a comprehensive anti-money
laundering (AML) law in April 2007; and with the
establishment of a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)
in April 2009. These actions have provided the
legal basis for the monitoring, investigation, and
prosecution of illegal financial activities. The
new laws allow for the freezing of suspicious
accounts and permit the prosecution of terrorist
finance-related crimes. U.S. and EU programs are
providing Moroccan police, customs, central bank and
government financial officials with training to
recognize money laundering methods. The FIU and its
member organizations met with the U.S. Department of
Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security in
early October 2009 to discuss possible U.S.
technical assistance to develop the AML/CFT regime.
A formal request from the FIU and the Central Bank
followed in November 2009. Morocco has a relatively
effective system through the newly established FIU
for disseminating U.S. government and UN Security
Council Resolution terrorist freeze lists to its
financial sector and legal authorities. Morocco has
frozen some terrorist-related accounts.

8. Another key to Morocco's counterterrorism
efforts has been its emphasis on international
cooperation. Moroccan authorities continued to
disrupt plots to attack Moroccan, U.S. and other
Western-affiliated targets, and aggressively
investigated numerous individuals associated with
international terrorist groups, often in
collaboration with international partners. Morocco
and the U.S. worked together extensively on
counterterrorism efforts at the tactical level.
Morocco and the U.S. made plans to begin joint
counter-radicalization programs as well. In the
past years, Morocco has accepted prisoners formerly
detained at Guantanamo Bay and prosecuted them under
Moroccan law. In May, a Moroccan criminal court
reduced the sentence of former Guantanamo Bay
detainee Mohammed Benmoujane from 10 to two years.

9. Morocco has also forged solid cooperative
relationships with European and African partners by
sharing information and conducting joint operations.
Morocco is considered a Mediterranean Dialogue
partner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
and also cooperates with regional partners on a
bilateral basis. In March, Spanish police arrested
a Moroccan on an international warrant issued by
Morocco on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist
group that had planned attacks on official and
tourist targets in Morocco. Morocco also worked
closely with African partners such as Mauritania and
Senegal. The Government used army and Ministry of
Interior paramilitary forces to secure its borders
as best it could but faced resource constraints and
both a lengthy border and lengthy coastline.


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