The terrorist threat in the Maghreb continues unabated. The Taliban victory in Afghanistan seems to have given global jihadism a boost, and this has been matched by a proliferation of attack plans. In this context, Morocco witnessed on Wednesday a new successful anti-terrorist operation in the town of Errachidia, located in the interior of the North African country.
Four people were arrested in Errachidia for their alleged links to ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of Daesh, which is responsible for the attacks on Kabul airport that killed 170 people, including 13 American soldiers. The detainees, aged between 20 and 40, planned to carry out imminent terrorist attacks on Moroccan soil against military installations and government workers, according to MAP.
The Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations, an agency of the General Directorate of Terrorist Surveillance (DGST), led the operation in close cooperation with the Moroccan National Police. The action was carried out on 16, 20 and 22 September and led to the arrest of the rest of the members of the organisation who remained at large until then.
The investigation shows that all of them had pledged their allegiance to the 'emir' of the group, who is among those arrested, and that they had chosen the name 'Jamaat Attawhid Al Islami Bi Al Maghrib' to name the terrorist cell, sympathetic to the Islamic State of Khorasan. The ringleader of the organisation was reportedly involved in indoctrination and recruitment and used his shop as a place of worship "after he was banned from praying in the mosque", according to the authorities.
Police searches of the suspects' respective homes enabled the security forces to seize computer equipment, memory cards, paramilitary uniforms and even Daesh manuscripts and posters. However, it was via the internet that the cell shared content related to the heinous crimes of the Islamic State and spread messages of hatred and incitement to terrorism.
The organisation consisted of seven individuals, according to the authorities. All of them are being held in pre-trial detention to avoid outside contact and are at the disposal of the courts until the investigations are completed. Investigators are now looking for possible links with other foreign organisations and more people involved.
Moroccan security forces have dismantled more than 2,000 jihadist cells and made more than 3,500 terrorism-related arrests over the past two decades, according to the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations. The authorities' efforts have not spared Morocco from terrorist attacks. In 2003, as many as 33 people were killed after five suicide attacks in the financial capital of Casablanca. And in 2011, another 17 lost their lives after a bomb imploded in a central square in Marrakech.
The latest came in 2018, when two young Scandinavian tourists were beheaded by an 18-man jihadist group on the ascent of Mount Tuqbal in Morocco's Atlas Mountains, the highest point on the African continent.
The latest crusade against terrorism took place in June in the rural commune of Sidi Zuin, near Marrakech, where four other people were arrested for their membership of a tiny organisation preparing terrorist offensives in Morocco. In addition, the leader of the cell intended to join Daesh camps in the Sahel. The threats are not abating and Morocco has no time to let its guard down.