Security forces in Morocco discover and eliminate ISIS cell

North Africa

Morocco has had a minor issue with the presence of terrorist cells in the country, whose numbers have been reducing for a few years.

Terrorism and ISIS continue to represent a somewhat low-level threat to security in Morocco. Although terrorist attacks in the country have been few and far between, a small number of terrorist cells remain active and are being pursued by the security forces.

The security forces dismantled a 6-member sleeper cell in Beni-Mellal, located in the centre of the country. The Moroccan authorities stated that the group was preparing for terrorist attacks and may have links to ISIS. Moreover, electronic devices, books, and flyers which promote the group’s ideology and incites violence were confiscated, in addition to bladed weapons which were in their possession.

Initial investigations showed the suspects were between the ages of 24 and 37. 

The authorities constantly pursue sleeper cells and from time to time declare the arrest of terrorist militants and cells. This has led to a decline in the number of captured cells from 21 in 2015 to 19 in 2016, and then 9 just last year, according to official figures.

Morocco has often been cited as a country in the Muslim world that has made successful attempts at clamping down on the spread of extremist discourses and preventing the rise of terrorist groups. The country often hosts anti-radicalisation and counter-extremism conferences to pinpoint the ways in which extremist groups exploit young and vulnerable minds to sow seeds of hate in society.

Nevertheless, terrorist cells in Morocco, especially those affiliated with ISIS, have been found in recent years and the security forces have managed to successfully dismantle many of them. It is estimated that some 1,700 young people from Morocco and the nearby regions have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside ISIS.

The last terrorist attack to take place in Morocco was carried out in April 2011, when a Moroccan man blew himself up with a pressure cooker in Marrakech’s Jemaa el-Fnaa. The attack killed 16 people and wounded dozens.