During the crisis between Spain and Morocco, some press articles have used the old conspiracy theory about the 11-M attacks on Madrid trains. Nothing is further from what has been demonstrated. A statement from the Moroccan Foreign Ministry recalls the main results of Morocco's anti-terrorist collaboration with Spain.
Far beyond the convoluted conspiracy theories that can be linked to the attacks, there is a much more powerful and true reality: the powerful anti-terrorist cooperation between Spain and Morocco. Reciprocity between the two powers has allowed the blocking of 82 terrorist acts1 and the dismantling of various cells with ramifications between the two states.
The beginnings of this much-needed synergy date back to the 1980s, more specifically on 29 September 1989, when the Bilateral Cooperation Agreement3 was signed, which was only the start of countless joint actions, especially after the 11-M attacks.
For example, we begin with the dismantling on 22 November 2004 of an Islamist cell in several locations in Barcelona, made up of three Moroccans with the intention of appropriating explosive material4. In 2007, with Burgos as the main scenario, the Guardia Civil dismantled a terrorist cell which, among other activities, collected money for Bouchaib Maghder, convicted in Morocco for the attacks in Casablanca, in addition to the arrest of the Moroccan Wissan Lofti, for collaboration with a terrorist organisation5. The collaboration of the Moroccan, Danish, Swedish and American services is noteworthy.
A year later, in April 2008 in Melilla, at the request of the Moroccan security forces, the Guardia Civil identified the members of the Belliraj cell and arrested several individuals related to the attacks in Casablanca6. In 2009, thanks to bilateral collaboration, several Moroccan jihadists were arrested in Andalusia with the intention of carrying out attacks in tourist areas of their native country7. The following year, 2010, as a result of Operation Spiral and thanks to Moroccan cooperation, Faiçal Errai, a member of the international organisation collaborating with Al-Qaeda, Ansar Al-Mujadhideen8, was identified. He was sentenced to six years in prison9.
However, these arrests have not only taken place in our country, and there have been countless arrests on Moroccan soil, such as that of Mohamed Belhadj, implicated in 11-M.
Since 2013, cooperation operations have intensified, including Operation Basket, Operation Bastion, Operation Jáver and Operation Gala10. The latter, carried out in 2014, coinciding with the establishment of the "Caliphate" by Daesh, focused on the so-called Al-Andalus Brigade, made up of a total of five Moroccans and two Spanish nationals born in Morocco, who maintained international connections with radical groups spread throughout Europe (France, Belgium), as well as Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and Syria. This was not a collaborative operation as such, but the Moroccan role was essential. The aim of this cell was to send mujahideen to conflict zones.
Among the jihadists identified was the brother of Mohamed Afalah (one of the 11-M fugitives), Ismail Afalah, who is suspected of having escaped to Syria or Iraq, joining the Caliphate11.
In 2019, Grande Marlaska signed, together with the Moroccan Minister of the Interior, Abdelouafi Laftit, the cooperation agreement in the joint fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and illegal immigration, in addition to the improvement in the prosecution of crimes of murder, kidnapping, sexual exploitation of minors, arms trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting12. All of this thanks to the exchange of information and mutual lending of assistance between security forces and bodies, as well as educational seminars on modernisation in methodology and systematic improvement.
And this important synergy is not surprising, considering that both powers are located on the border between Africa and Europe, with Spain playing a key role as a gateway for jihadism from Africa and Morocco being a key element for primary detection among migratory flows, in addition to the detection of jihadist cells on Spanish soil.
That some have threatened to disclose information related to 11-M, supposedly hitherto unknown, is only a provocation that fuels a diplomatic tension that is at its climax. Nevertheless, since terrorism is a common enemy, if Moroccan services were aware of imminent danger or the mere suspicion of it, they would inform the Spanish, and vice versa, leaving aside the various diplomatic confrontations they are currently engaged in. Or so it is hoped.
This brief analysis demonstrates the importance of collaboration between these two powers, gateways to Africa and Europe, links between the two continents, distanced by conflicts such as the Perejil Islet or the conflict with the Sahara, but united by a common enemy: jihadism.
- Zuloaga, J. (31 de Mayo de 2021). La cooperación antiterrorista de Marruecos con España se mantiene “en cualquier caso”. La Razón.
- Barrenechea, L. (2016). Mecanismos e iniciativas de cooperacion hispano-marroquí contra el terrorismo. REVISTA ELECTRÓNICA DE ESTUDIOS INTERNACIONALES , 11
- Barrenechea, L., & Alonso, R. (2015). La cooperación antiterrorista entre España y Marruecos: ¿un modelo para la estrategia contra el yihadismo? Cuadernos de Estrategia 173 La Internacional Yihadista. IEEE , 188.
- Ministerio del Interior (MIR). Nota de prensa. 22/12/2004.
- Sentencia Nº 21/2011. Juzgado de Instrucción Nº 2 de la Audiencia Nacional. Sala de lo Penal, sección 2ª. Sumario 73/2008. 09/06/2011. Ponente: magistrado Ángel Luis Hurtado Adrián. págs. 7-11.
- MIR (2008). Nota de prensa. 01/04/2008.
- Magharebia: «Morocco dismantles Salafia Jihadia cell», 01/07/2009.
- Dolores Delgado, fiscal coordinadora de terrorismo internacional en la Audiencia Nacional. Intervención en el I Foro Elcano de Terrorismo Global: Magreb y el Sahel, Panel III, Casa Árabe, Madrid, 19/11/2013. Disponible http://www.casaarabe.es/casa-arabe-tv/show_video/bdjpxshzkpi (consultado el 21/01/2014).
- Barrenechea, L., & Alonso, R. (2015). La cooperación antiterrorista entre España y Marruecos: ¿un modelo para la estrategia contra el yihadismo? Cuadernos de Estrategia 173 La Internacional Yihadista. IEEE. Págs. 189-190.
- Íbidem. Pág. 197-198.
- MIR. Nota de prensa, «La red yihadista desmantelada era una de las principales suministradoras de “combatientes” al EI», 16/06/2014
- Ministerio del Interior. (2019). Grande-Marlaska firma en Rabat un convenio para estrechar la cooperación entre España y Marruecos en la lucha contra el terrorismo y la delincuencia organizada. Grande-Marlaska firma en Rabat un convenio para estrechar la cooperación entre España y Marruecos en la lucha contra el terrorismo y la delincuencia organizada. Madrid: España.