As jihadist terrorism escalates in Europe, the collaboration between Moroccan and Algerian intelligence services and those of the old continent has intensified.
Security in several European countries during New Year’s celebrations was strengthened by mixed teams of Moroccan and European counter-terrorism specialists. The anti terrorism collaboration initiated by the King of Morocco Mohammed VI with the European Union has been acknowledged as an important initiative by the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, which defined Morocco a ‘key partner’ of the European Union in the fight against terrorism.
The country, in fact, can rely on one of the best intelligence apparatus in the world. Furthermore, the relevant presence of communities of Moroccan immigrants in Europe (France, Spain, Italy in particular, Belgium) makes Morocco an essential partner of European intelligence services. The country has long been committed to creating an atmosphere of moderate and tolerant Islam and the Moroccan king, whose family claims to be descended from the Prophet, has always acted as a peaceful religious authority and a powerful advocate for religious unity. King Mohammed VI also established the Mohamed V Foundation for Solidarity, a project focused on combating poverty and social and economic exclusion.
The Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ ), also called ‘the Moroccan FBI’ was created in 2015 and it plays a central role in the fight against terrorism along with the Direction Générale de la Surveillance du Territoire (DGST) the domestic intelligence service.
When Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), a French NGO, filed two civil lawsuits against Abdellatif Hammouchi, Director of the Directorate General for Territorial Surveillance (DGST) accusing him of complicity in the torture suffered in jail by French-Moroccan Zakaria Moumni, a diplomatic row erupted between Morocco and France, two countries that typically maintain close ties. This crisis on the eve of the attacks of January 2015, brought tragic consequences. The lack of information by the Moroccan intelligence services made their French counterparts unable to prevent the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket attacks. Moroccan services however made possible the French police raid in Saint Denis that occurred in the morning of 18 November 2015, five days after the Paris attacks, during which a perpetrator of the attacks and suicide bomber in Saint-Denis, were killed, and five people were arrested.
In the aftermath of the attacks in Brussels in 2016, the King of Belgium, as Holland had already done previously, personally asked King Mohammed VI to intensify the collaboration between the intelligence of their respective countries.
Moroccan intelligence services also collaborate with Tunisian, Saudi and US intelligence. Saudi services have even asked Morocco to become a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which shows how Moroccan counterterrorism and intelligence expertise is much appreciated. Moroccan intelligence has been collaborating with the Israeli Mossad since the sixties, and this cooperation covers a broad spectrum of operations and not only the fight against terrorism. Marocco, in turn, complains about the weak cooperation which Algeria, its regional rival, offers in opposing North Africa and the Sahel cross-border terrorism, while Algeria states that the country is on the front line in the fight against terrorism. Algerian intelligence has started several partnerships with the United States and several European Union countries in order to intensify anti-terrorism cooperation.
In November 2016, Algeria hosted an international expert workshop of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) on ‘the national plans for the prevention of violent extremism for the countries of the Sahel’. The meeting, which was co-chaired by Algeria and Canada, brought together top officials and experts in the fields of prevention and the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
Algerian services, however, are suspected of manipulating some terrorist groups (such as Alsar al Dine) and this affects negatively the collaboration with European countries’ intelligence.
Unfortunately, disputes between Algeria and Morocco often leave little space for the cooperation against terrorism, at the expenses of Tunisia, which instead, is trying hard to develop collaboration among North African countries in order to face a threat without borders. (J.F.)