Political Editor: The Majalla
on : Tuesday, 26 Mar, 2013
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Morocco Beefs Up Border Security

Morocco fears Mali jihadists may cross into its territory

A Moroccan policeman stands guard at a checkpoint on July 14, 2007, in Casablanca. SOURCE: BDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

A Moroccan policeman stands guard at a checkpoint on July 14, 2007, in Casablanca. BDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

CASABLANCA, Asharq Al-Awsat—Morocco has increased the security on its borders with Algeria and Mali in anticipation of jihadists fleeing northern Mali as a result of French and African military intervention there.

In recent weeks, Algerian authorities have arrested a number of individuals suspected of helping fighters escape Mali and enter Algerian territories illegally.

An informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Moroccan security agencies investigated a group of individuals affiliated with the Salafi movement. Authorities released them without charge after taking their statements. The investigation was a precautionary step, the source added.

There is great concern locally over the possibility of hard-line fighters entering Morocco after fleeing Mali, especially after the appeal made in a recent statement from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It was the first statement to be issued by AQIM since the beginning of the African and French military intervention in Mali, the source added.

Earlier this year, Moroccan authorities arrested several networks that were recruiting and sending fighters to Mali and Syria.

Recently, Salafi jihadists have been circulating video footage showing Moroccan recruits carrying weapons and fighting in Syria and Mali. The jihadists use the footage in order to promote and publicize their activities in the two countries.

Some Moroccan sources believe that the threat posed to Morocco by Mali jihadists is relatively small when compared with the threat posed to Algeria and Mauritania, as Morocco has no direct joint border with Mali.

Moreover, the Al-Qaeda threat in Morocco is not as severe as in other North Africa countries. Abdallah Elrami, a Moroccan researcher at the Royal Institute for Strategic Studies, believes that Al-Qaeda failed to establish a foothold in Morocco because of the heavy blows it received at the hands of Moroccan security agencies.

Elrami added that senior AQIM officials, led by the organization chief Abdelmalik Droukdel himself, said that they failed to establish channels of communication, coordination and logistical support with Salafi jihadists in Morocco because of the security agencies’ continuous monitoring, which has prevented the setting up of an Al-Qaeda branch in Morocco.

Elrami added, “The groups that left Morocco for Mali were small in number, unlike the people who we saw leave Mauritania and Algeria. It will be difficult for them to return home because the security authorities are monitoring them. On the other hand, there is no favorable environment or strong and organized networks that would harbor them in Morocco, as is the case in Algeria, where the head of the AQIM command is based.”

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