BCIJ: 1,659 Moroccans in Terrorist Organizations, 225 Carried out Suicide Attacks

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Rabat – Mohammed Nifaoui, the general observer at Morocco’s Central Bureau for Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) revealed on Monday that around 1,659 Moroccan fighters joined terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq. He said that 225 of them have previous convictions in terrorism-related cases.

The top security officials announced the figures during a seminar held in Rabat that brought together officials from the anti-terrorism department within the BCIJ. The Moroccan Observatory on Extremism and Violence (OMEV) organized the seminar under the theme: Threats, Performance, and Achievements. 

The seminar was an opportunity to discuss Morocco’s current counterterrorism approach. After the Casablanca bombings in 2003,  Morocco’s counterterrorism measures were subject to scrutiny after several synchronized suicide bombings targeted five places across Casablanca. 

The May 16 Casablanca terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 33 victims and 12 suicide bombers in addition to injuring more than a hundred people.

Meanwhile, Nifaoui said that the total number of Moroccan returnees reached 270 people, of whom 137 were kept in the BCIJ departments for rehabilitation. He added that more than 745 fighters died carrying out suicide attacks.

The Moroccan top security official said that 288 women joined the ranks of terrorist organizations in Syrian and Iraq, of whom only 99 returned to Morocco. Children are also enrolled in terrorist organizations and are numbered at 391, of whom only 82 returned.

Morocco’s anti-terrorism approach achievement

The BCIJ’s general observer announced that around 210 terrorist cells have been dismantled ever since the May 16 Casablanca terrorist attacks. This resulted in arresting more than 4,304 extremists.

Nifaoui said that the BCIJ succeeded in dismantling 88 cells in 2013, resulting in sabotaging 500 terrorist operations.

He added that since the establishment of the BCIJ in March 2015, it dismantled 83 terrorist cells, 77 of which are linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Listing the number of the dismantled terrorist cells over the past six years, Nifaoui pointed out that 21 terrorist cells were dismantled in 2015, 19 cells in 2016, 9 cells in 2017, 11 cells in 2018, 14 cells in 2019, 8 cells in 2020, and one cell up until May 19, 2021. Eight cells were armed, he revealed.

Since 2015, the BCIJ arrested 1,347 people for terrorism links, of whom 54 had criminal records in terrorism cases in addition to 14 women and 34 minors.

Moussalaha program

To counter extremism, Morocco launched its reintegration program for former Jihadis (extremists) named Moussalaha (reconciliation). 

The General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR) launched the reintegration program in 2017. It is conducted jointly with the Mohammedia League for Scholars (Rabita) and the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH).

The program, intended for prisoners with extremist ideologies, aims to psychologically and intellectually rehabilitate prisoners to prepare them for social reintegration. The process is carried out using a threefold approach including reconciliation with the self, with religious texts, and with the society.

Experts only release convicts once they have officially examined their ideological orientations by rejecting extremism and terrorism, renounce violence and accept pluralistic interpretations of religious texts, and express their attachment to the sanctity of the nation.

The Moroccan government has eminent trust in the reconciliation program. King Mohammed VI has previously offered his royal pardon to numerous defendants convicted of terror-related crimes after successfully completing all phases of the program.

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