Morocco faces a moderate level of security risk, placing it as an intermediate risk country. Indeed the Kingdom faces several risk sources but it has managed, thus far, to successfully control them. From October 25 to November 24, Morocco’s MEA Risk Index was 1.44, positioning it on the low-end of the moderate risk range, near the low-risk zone. This rating indicates a likelihood of moderate stability for those seeking to invest or operate in the country, but they also must remain vigilant and insure that proper security measures are adopted in case of any negative development.
For the period mentioned above, Morocco registered only two deaths from critical incidents, as recorded by MEA Risk’s Critical Incidents Tracker. There were 73 arrests during that period, with 27 such arrests occurring in Tangiers against so-called hooligans.
Looking at the current security situation perhaps the most important key point of this past month was the US warning Morocco about potential infiltration of IS militants. These warnings are rather frequent and not so surprising considering the proximity to Libya and the Sahel. According to a security source, the United States has indeed alerted the Moroccan authorities about the possible infiltration of Islamic State militants who fled Libya via the Mauritanian border. According to the source, IS militants from Libya, Algeria and Tunisia are taking advantage of the porous borders in the Sahel, and are likely to pose as traders or businessmen, or offer bribes to border security officers to gain access to Morocco.
Although these alerts suggest potential infiltration of other Maghreb or Arab nationals, Morocco is confronted with a solid home-grown base of Islamic militants who are being pursued by the Moroccan security services. Authorities say that more than a dozen IS networks were dismantled in Morocco so far this year. And over the past four weeks, three Islamic State cells were dismantled in the cities of Tangier, Oujda, Tinflet and Tetaoun. The Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) has been firing on all cylinders, preventing said cells from carrying out attacks targeting key infrastructure and security agencies in the Kingdom. Authorities have also dismantled a pro-Islamic State group based in Tangier and Oujda on November 11. Several swords and other types of bladed weapons were seized.
The Moroccan authorities have developed a zero tolerance rule to anything tied to Jihadism. The judicial police recently arrested an individual suspected of vowing allegiance to al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front. The suspect, who had been monitored by the general directorate of national territory surveillance, is a computer engineer who designed websites and hacked foreign bank accounts for the benefit al-Qaeda. The judicial system has also be hardened to be harsh with suspects. A Chadian national arrested in Tangier in May 2016 was sentenced to 20 years in prison for terrorism by the appeals court of Rabat. Abu al-Batoul Addabah, otherwise known as « the slayer », was described as a « dangerous Islamic State member who was preparing attacks » by the central bureau of judicial investigation (BCIJ). Upon searching his house, the authorities had found explosives and a large array of weapons.
Criminal gangs are also probed to identify ties with militant groups. Following the dismantling of a vast criminal network involved in official document forgery, armed robberies, drug trafficking and kidnappings in northern Morocco, the security forces discovered close ties with Islamist insurgency groups. In fact, a member of the said criminal gang used to be part of the Islamic State in Syria, and is reportedly funding Morocco-based cells, and helping wannabe-militants reach the Middle-East.
Outside of Morocco, Moroccan nationals are also scrutinized, in particular in Europe. In the past month, the Spanish authorities arrested five Moroccan nationals, including two Imams, in Madrid, Roda de Ter and Calahorra over suspected ties with the Islamic State. Four of them are believed to be recruiters, and the fifth suspect was reportedly planning attacks in Roda de Ter. In France, a Moroccan man allegedly tied to the Islamic State was arrested in Marseilles for plotting an attack.
As Morocco deploys ever greater security resources, the risk remains serious and therefore we project continued vigilance from security services going forward.