By ATA Secretary General During the Conference “Strengthening Security & Stability In The Mediterranean – The Role Of Morocco” at the European Parliament in Brussels.
7 September 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start by first thanking our organizers and hosts for arranging this engagement and constructing this panel with such esteemed speakers and distinguished guests. I would like to provide a special thanks to Miss Reese for her role in bringing us together along with a special recognition to our distinguished guests from both France and Belgium joining us in the audience here today, many of which share a close experience and insight on these issues.
The Euro-Atlantic and MENA region find themselves in an increasing threat environment due to the ongoing challenge of radical jihadi terrorism and the spread of ISIS combined with a continuing migration crisis largely fueled by the war in Syria.
Since the declaration of the Caliphate in June 2014, ISIS or individuals inspired by Daesh have carried out over 95 terrorist attacks in 21 separate countries, claiming the lives of over 1,500 people. The targets are wide ranging and include: Belgium, France, Indonesia, Russia, Bangladesh, Australia, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia and the United States.
Following the recent attacks in Paris, Nice and Brussels while taking into account that France today is Europe’s leading exporter of Foreign Fighters to Syria with Belgium being the biggest proportional exporter, we have an emerging trend to recognize that the Francophone world is suffering the highest threat level from jihadi terrorism in Europe with Belgium having become a front line state.
Looking to our Mediterranean Partners, Morocco has been a key ally, working closely with their French, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese and American partners to counter the terrorist threat Morocco faces not only from ISIS and Middle East jihadist groups such as al-Nusra, but also the wider Sahel region and Maghreb groups operating out of Mali, Mauritania and Niger, along with global jihadist organizations including AQ and AQIM.
After suffering its own tragic attacks in Casablanca and Marrakesh several years ago, the threat continues both at home and abroad as an estimated 1600- 2000 persons who have gone to Syria, making Morocco the 3rd largest provider of jihadists to Syria.
This is why we are fortunate to have Minister Hassad here with us today.
Having taken a proactive approach in countering terrorism and radicalization, Morocco has made notable contributions and efforts that are necessary to briefly mention before opening up to the panelists here tonight. I will stress 4 key points that I will divide them into two categories, short term and long-term:
1.Since 9/11 over 120 terrorist organizations have been dismantled by Moroccan authorities that were operating inside the country.
According to France 24’s recent report, over 20 terrorist cells were dismantled in Morocco this year.
- Many of the thwarted attacks were targeting high value civilian and national security posts such as:
- Non-Muslim places of worship
- At least 116 plots against national security targets
- Including the famous case of a Saudi sleep cell that was targeting a NATO fleet in Gibraltar
- While also stopping at least 108 targeted assassinations against national security services personnel
2.Due to the threat of ISIS, Morocco has revised its CT laws and created a new elite CT force in 2015
- In addition, membership to ISIS has been made illegal and any returning FF’s have been quickly detained
3.Earlier in 2016, Morocco joined NATO’s Interoperability Platform and stepped up military cooperation with special forces training with Egypt, Tunisia and Mauritania
- They are currently working with their Spanish, French and Portuguese allies to train Moroccan police in document fraud
4.While when we look to migration concerns, Morocco has taken measures to stem the flows to Europe:
- In 2014, Morocco launched a special regularization program of 20 000 irregular migrants in Morocco while integrating a control system and coastal lock while upgrading its border posts
- Key outcomes can be seen if you look at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla as well as the Canary Islands numbers of migrants have been significantly reduced.
In the Long Term Moroccan authorities:
1.In the domestic and political field, Morocco took a proactive approach by moderating the Malikiti ideology by deploying imams to more than 50,000 mosques in Morocco to counter extremist propaganda;
2.Has monitored and taken action against the spread of Sha Islam from Iranian agents in the Sahel area;
3.Looking to Libya, Moroccan authorities have taken many meetings and significant efforts at the highest levels in an effort to assist unification and governance efforts in Libya;
- Looking to its wider neighbourhood: Moroccan authorities have sought to maintain political stability and assist local and national security services through a permanent and active involvement in CT and countering drug trafficking, not only through intelligence integration, financial cooperation and tactical support, but also with social and educational programs for healthcare and education;
- A good example of this is that following the 2013 Mali elections, Morocco expanded its coop and visited 4 african countries and signed 92 economic partnership conventions with economic and social support programs for Mali, Coite de voire, gabon, equatorial guinea
- This includes restructuring in religious teachings that has so far brough over 500 malian imams to Morocco for religious training while also the Ivory coast, Niger, Libya and Tunisia have sent imams to be trained in morocco
- Morocco has increased its already close ties with the EU through an Advanced Status Road Map
- Finally, recognizing the links between radicalization, migration, food security and climate change, Morocco will host the next climate Change Summit in November to help bring into force the Paris Agreement
So once again we are very fortunate to be joined by our esteemed speakers and distinguished guests to provide insight into these issues.