France will extradite Moroccan Abdellatif Ziad, mastermind of an attack on a hotel in Marrakech

The attack took place in 1994 and claimed the lives of two Spanish tourists
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AFP/ ANGELOS TZORTZINIS  -   The French President Emmanuel Macron

Paris is preparing to hand over to Morocco several Algerian intelligence service collaborators, including the Moroccan Abdellatif Ziad, mastermind of the attack on the Atlas Asni hotel in Marrakech on 24 August 1994. In this attack, two Spanish tourists were killed, and another French tourist was seriously wounded after being shot at in the hotel lobby.

The attack was the work of the Islamist group Kelkal, made up of North African immigrants in France. This terrorist organisation also organised other attacks in other parts of the country. Following the shooting at the Marrakech hotel, the Fez Court of Appeal charged seven young men with "constituting a criminal association". The accused had also planned to shoot tourists on a beach in Tangier and attack a synagogue in Casablanca. 

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Jamaa Lafna Square in Marrakesh, Morocco

Ziad, for his part, was a member of the Islamic Youth movement. He fled from Morocco to France but was expelled in 1984. He then moved to Libya and then to Algeria, where he joined "Islamist fighters under the orders of the Algerian intelligence services to undermine the stability of Morocco", as the Assabah media outlet explains.

The Alawite media also notes that Ziad tried to smuggle weapons across the Algerian Moroccan border before being sent to France to infiltrate the Algerian Islamic Front for the Salvation of Algeria (FIS). "From Paris, he also directed, under the orders of the Algerian services, subversive acts against Morocco, including the Asni attack, which earned him eight years in prison, four of which he served", details Le360.

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File photo - Flags of Morocco and Algeria

Years later, Karaim Moulai, a former DRS (Algerian intelligence service) agent, revealed the involvement of Algerian intelligence in the attack on the Atlas Asni hotel. Moulai, who is in exile in London, also confessed that the DRS was involved in the abduction and murder of the Tibhirine monks in 1996.

The Marrakech attack significantly worsened relations between Morocco and Algeria. The situation between the two neighbours has not improved since. At the end of August, Algiers announced the severance of relations with Rabat, despite Moroccan attempts to strengthen ties. Mohammed VI, in his speech on the Feast of the Throne, expressed his desire to "work together, as soon as he deems appropriate, to develop the fraternal relations that our peoples have achieved through years of common struggle". In contrast, the Algerian government accused the Kingdom of "inciting and violating the good neighbourhood treaty".

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File photo - Mohamed VI, King of Morocco

Since then, tensions have been on the rise. In September the FAR-Morocco forum accused Algeria of being behind the attack on several Moroccan truck drivers in Mali. "The responsibility of the Algerian services and their terrorist militias based in Tindouf has been proven. Not having been able to do much at the level of the borders and our defence wall, they then targeted civilians in Africa, especially in the Sahel region," indicates a message from the FAR-Morocco forum on its Facebook account.

The president of the National Federation of Transport (FNT), Abdelilah Hifdim also pointed to Algiers as responsible for the deaths of several truck drivers. "I accuse Algeria and its puppet Polisario of being responsible for this cowardly and abominable terrorist attack against Moroccan truck drivers," he said in a statement to Le360. 

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PHOTO/AP - Saïd Chengriha oversees military manoeuvres by the Algerian Army

Subsequently, in early October, the Algerian army began a series of military manoeuvres on the border with Morocco. These exercises were supervised by Lieutenant General Said Chengriha, one of the main Algerian instigators against the Kingdom.