Morocco Prosecutions of Suspected Jihadists Doubled in 2014: Prosecutor

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Published Thursday, February 12, 2015

Morocco prosecuted twice as many suspected jihadists in 2014 than in the previous year, the state prosecutor said Thursday, linking the rise to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

"The number of terrorism-related cases last year stood at 147, compared to 64 in 2013," al-Hassan Eddaki was quoted as saying by the official Moroccan news agency (MAP).

He said the increase of about 130 percent was due to "tensions linked to the situations in the Sahel countries, Syria and Iraq."

Eddaki said 323 suspects were sent to trial last year, against 138 in 2013.

Authorities say about 1,500 Moroccans have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which has declared a "caliphate" straddling the two countries in areas it controls.

On Tuesday, US intelligence officials claimed that foreign fighters were flocking to Syria at an "unprecedented" rate, with more than 20,000 volunteers from around the world joining ISIS or other extremist groups.

The foreign fighters have traveled to Syria from more than 90 countries, including at least 3,400 from Western states and more than 150 Americans, according to the latest estimate from the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

Nicholas Rasmussen, NCTC director said that ISIS militants were able to recruit new volunteers partly because of their savvy use of propaganda on social media, producing videos and appeals in a range of languages.

Apart from grisly images of murders of hostages and battlefield executions, the group also tries to reach alienated youth by promoting images of a welcoming, "bucolic" life in their self-declared caliphate and employing references to Western brands and popular video games, Rasmussen claimed.

In January, Morocco said it had dismantled an Islamist militant cell sending fighters to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and mount attacks on returning home.

The cell, the latest of series of radical groups authorities say they have uncovered, had been active in the city of Meknes and the towns of al-Hajeb and al-Hoceima in the Northern Rif mountains, the interior ministry said in a statement.

It said the head of the cell had been in contact with ISIS and had sent volunteers.

In September, the government approved a bill to tighten anti-terrorist legislation, aimed especially at stopping people from joining jihadist groups.

A month later, it boosted security across the kingdom to counter any threats.

The North African kingdom has suffered attacks in the past by militants. In 2011 a blast in a café in Marrakesh killed 15 people. It was the worst attack since 2003, when suicide bombings killed more than 45 people in Casablanca.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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