From Tragedy to Triumph: Morocco’s Response to the 2003 Casablanca Bombings

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Throughout the 20th century, Morocco remained fairly unharmed by terrorism. Then on May 16, 2003, the Moroccan economic capital of Casablanca was swayed by a suicide bombing, killing forty Moroccans. The French language magazine Jeune Afrique characterised the attacks as “Morocco’s 9/11,” adding that they “deeply altered the kingdom.” The tragic events observed the advancement of extremism in the Kingdom and paved the path for other terrorist attacks.

In March and April 2007, Casablanca was once again struck by terrorism. Two attacks were undertaken by three suicide bombers in the disadvantaged neighbourhood of Sidi Moumen and the Boulevard Moulay Youssef, around the American language centre. Two other terrorists were captured. Though the attacks pushed the death of only one victim, in addition to the three attackers, they confirmed that the terrorist threat was lurking in every corner.

Since the terrorist attacks in 2003, Moroccan security forces have flourished in nipping terrorist cells in the bud and maintaining the kingdom safe. Morocco has embraced a pre-emptive strategy to prevent terrorist and political crimes from occurring.

Morocco had to double its measures to ensure security for its citizens and maintain the country’s stability in a troubled region. In 2015, the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCJI) was established to meet the challenges posed by global terrorism. Since its composition, the Bureau has flourished in dismantling over 43 terrorist cells and containing more than 600 suspects.

Among other strategies, the bureau surveys the web to intercept terrorist networks utilising social media to recruit individuals. Moroccan authorities are well conscious of the danger of terrorism. During the security operations, 2,963 suspects were captured, helping thwart 341 criminal plans that were planned to destabilize the country.

Morocco’s victory in countering terrorist threats has made it a positively sought-after partner, with European countries following strong cooperation with the kingdom. Spain has commended the security partnership between the two countries, stating “It has reached unprecedented levels.” France also witnesses Morocco as an indispensable security partner. “Morocco is a critical partner in efforts to ensure security and combat terrorism,” stated former French Minister of Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, during a press conference in Morocco in February 2015.

Many have claimed that the battle against terrorism cannot be succeeded by force alone. No country seems to acknowledge this idea better than Morocco. In addition to its upgraded security operations, the kingdom has strived to tackle the problem at its roots. It has established human development projects for poor areas in the cities, which often breed extremism, and has executed a policy of religious reform, with a focus on moderate Islamic values and the promotion of peace and tolerance.

In February 2016, King Mohammed VI delivered instructions to examine school textbooks, expunging discriminatory passages and supporting instead coexistence and dialogue between civilizations. In addition, de-radicalization agendas have been established in prisons, where many extremism suspects and convicts are incarcerated.

Religious scholars are employed in the fight against radical ideology. In November 2016 the League of Mohamadean Scholars, a state body of religious scholars, issued a series of studies on religious misconceptions employed by terrorist organizations to explain their actions. In 2015, the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates in Rabat was developed to boost Morocco’s efforts to combat extremist ideology in Africa and internationally.

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