Moroccan anti-terrorist police take charge of investigation into French tourist's murder

The 79-year-old French citizen was stabbed to death in a market in the southern city of Tiznit

AFP/FADEL SENNA  -   A member of the Moroccan special forces guard stands outside the building of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ).

Morocco's public prosecutor's office has tasked the national anti-terrorist police with investigating the murder of a 79-year-old French tourist in a market in the town of Tiznit, 90 kilometres south of the coastal city of Agadir. A source close to the investigation told AFP news agency that Moroccan anti-terrorism policy will be put in charge due to suspicions of "a terrorist motive in the crime".

The Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) under the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST) "is in charge of the investigation under the supervision of the king's prosecutor at the Court of Appeal in Rabat due to suspicions of a terrorist motive for the crime," the anonymous source added. Following the attack on the French citizen, the French foreign ministry advised its nationals in Morocco to "be vigilant in all public places". "The risk of an attack is high," the French embassy in Rabat warned on its website. 

AFP/FADEL SENNA  -   Miembros del servicio de seguridad antiterrorista de Marruecos
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Members of the Moroccan anti-terrorist security service.

On the same day as the murder of the French tourist, Moroccan security forces arrested a 31-year-old man in Agadir on suspicion of the attack. The detainee has also been accused of committing "an attempted murder" of a Belgian citizen in the coastal city, the national police said. The Belgian man is hospitalised and out of danger. Like the French tourist, he was stabbed. The authorities also noted that the alleged killer had been in a psychiatric hospital from 25 September to 25 October 2021.

The Alawi Kingdom is deeply committed to the fight against terrorism, a scourge that has struck the country on several occasions. The Casablanca attacks in 2003 and the Marrakesh attack in 2011 have been considered the most serious attacks on Moroccan soil. Also, the murder of two Scandinavian tourists in the Atlas Mountains in December 2018 reinforced Morocco's fight against terrorism. The three convicted of the crime were sentenced to the death penalty, a sentence not applied in the country since 1993. In this regard, Rabat passed tough legislation against citizens who returned to the country after fighting with Daesh in Syria and Iraq. It is estimated that almost 1,600 Moroccans joined jihadist groups in 2015.

REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDLAL - Fotografía de archivo, fuerzas especiales marroquíes hacen guardia en la entrada de un edificio durante una operación antiterrorista en Temara, en las afueras de Rabat, Marruecos
REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDLAL - File photo, Moroccan special forces stand guard at the entrance of a building during an anti-terrorist operation in Temara, on the outskirts of Rabat, Morocco.

According to data released by the BCIJ in 2021, since 2002, Moroccan police have dismantled more than 2,000 terrorist cells and arrested more than 3,500 people in terrorism-related cases. In December last year, counter-terrorism forces arrested a 24-year-old Daesh-affiliated extremist in the region of Sala Al Jadida. Morocco also works closely with other countries on this issue.

The Kingdom's counter-terrorism services maintain direct contact with countries such as Spain, the United States and France. With Madrid, for example, despite the diplomatic crisis, this partnership has not stopped. In this way, Morocco presents itself as a model in a region increasingly threatened by instability and growing jihadism in the Sahel.