Budding terrorist organisation dismantled in Morocco
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 13/05/09
Security forces in Morocco announced on Tuesday (May 12th) that they had successfully dismantled a "nascent terrorist organisation planning to carry out attacks" in the country. This cell, which comprised eight people, operated in at least three towns – Laâyoune, Guelmim, and Boujdour – as part of the radical Islamist Salafia Jihadia movement.
"These terrorists have been monitored for months and inquiries showed that the people we detained were a threat," said one interior ministry source wishing to remain anonymous.
PJD Secretary-General Abdellah Benkirane said Tuesday in a televised interview that one of the people arrested is a member of the Student Movement for Unity and Reform.
No details have been announced about the nature of the planned attacks.
Tuesday's announcement comes days ahead of the sixth anniversary of a string of suicide bombings in Morocco's economic capital of Casablanca. Forty-five people, including 13 suspected terrorists, died in the attacks of May 16th, 2003.
Since the 2003 attacks, Moroccan security forces have monitored suspicious activity closely, leading to a number of terrorism-related arrests.
According to the interior ministry, the nation's counter-terrorism policy relies on vigilance and anticipation, to tighten the noose around terrorist networks and thereby prevent them from successfully executing their deadly plans.
MP Lahcen Daoudi told Magharebia that it is important to ensure that the law is fully applied down to the smallest detail when fighting terrorism.
"Fighting terrorism is something which must be done seriously," he said. "Unfortunately, there have been cases of the miscarriage of justice when dealing with the issue. Families of the suspects must be told about their arrest. On several occasions, this has not happened."
According to Wednesday's Akhbar Al Yaoum, some human rights associations feel the method of undeclared arrests employed by security services is akin to kidnapping.
Mohamed Kanzidi, a politics lecturer, said the government must remain vigilant at all times, because the existence of several dormant cells has been revealed in Morocco since 2003.
"So far, this vigilance has certainly borne fruit," he said, "but the security services cannot watch everything."
Kanzidi said active collaboration between Maghreb countries, particularly Morocco and Algeria, is necessary to get a clear picture of the issue.
Sociologist Samira Brami said that to fight terrorism in Morocco, the government must speed up the pace of reform, particularly to combat poverty, to spread literacy, and to reduce unemployment.
"We must eliminate all those factors which encourage our young people to fall into the trap of terrorist networks, and to become alienated by their obscurantism and integrism. The security approach is effective, but it must also be backed up by work in the social and economic spheres," she said.
Public reaction to the announcement has been mixed. Some hail the efforts made by the security services, while others question the legal basis of the various arrests.
Samir Bouhani, a law student, told Magharebia the fight against terrorism could not justify any infringement of personal liberties. "It's the law, and not the security forces, which must decide who is guilty. We want to be protected, but not at the cost of innocent people being accused," he said.
Hatim Baâti, a public sector worker, said that everything has changed in Morocco since the attacks in Casablanca. "We no longer feel completely safe," he said, "but the strict measures adopted by the authorities have reassured us."
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