Morocco’s counterterrorism unit simultaneously raided three “safe houses” in the suburbs of their nation’s capital–arresting three terrorist leaders known to its intelligence services and capturing a cache of machine-guns, knives, axes, bomb-making materials and precision binoculars used for scouting targets.
The radical Islamist group has previously shared personnel with Al Qaeda and ISIS, according to intelligence officials. Nearby Rabat, the capital city, is home to its elected parliament and the primary residence of King Mohammed VI–tempting targets for terrorists.
The simultaneous raids took place on the outskirts of Rabat in the towns of Temara, Skhirat and Tifelt. Some Moroccan broadcasters reported a fourth raid in Tangiers, in the north of the company.
Bearing automatic carbines and pistols, the black-clad security services gathered before sunrise and the morning call to prayer on September 10, bursting in the suburban homes before the suspects rose for their ritualized pre-dawn foot-washing and prayers facing Mecca.
“The country continued to face sporadic threats, largely from small, independent terrorist cells, the majority of which claimed to be inspired by or affiliated with ISIS,” according to the U.S. State Department’s website.
Abdellatih Hammouchi personally supervised the covert operation. He is the director of both the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance ( known by its French-language initials DGST) and the General Directorate of National Security (known by its French-language initials DGSN). He appears in a photo nearby, which the government supplied to Moroccan news outlets. In the photo, Hammouchi is seen discussing tactics with one of the assault teams.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Hammouchi in December 4, 2019, in Rabat, to discuss counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation.
Precisely timed and carefully choreographed, Morocco’s leading counterterrorism unit executed a flawless operation with no deaths or injuries among security forces, suspects or bystanders.
These raids build on previous counterterrorism victories. Moroccan law enforcement has arrested more than 125 individuals allegedly linked to 25 different terrorist cells “in the early stages of planning attacks” against tourist sites, public figures and public buildings this past year, according to the U.S. Department of State. The kingdom, according to State department reports, suffered no terrorist incidents in 2019.
U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Karns, the chief spokesman for AFRICOM, praised the Moroccan forces for the predawn raid.
“Anytime a violent extremist organization or terrorist cell is weakened or dismantled it increases security, stability and the potential for a brighter future. Morocco remains committed to being a leader in counterterrorism and is a regional leader in security. They bring security to the rest of Africa through training and peacekeeping operations,” Karns told Zenger News.
“The U.S. has an excellent military-to military relationship with Morocco. Anytime a terrorist cell is dismantled, it disrupts future timelines for violence and destruction,” Karns said.
The colonel noted that ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram all operate on African soil. , to name a few. “These groups’ ambitions need to be contained, otherwise it could prove costly for Africa, the U.S., and others,” he said.
The Moroccan counterterrorist raid comes on the eve of two historic terrorist attacks on America, one in 2001 and another in 2012.
On a sunny morning on September 11, 2001, hijackers flew crowded commercial airliners into the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon while United Flight 93 was downed by its passengers in a Pennsylvania field. Almost 3,000 Americans died in those attacks. President Donald J. Trump and his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph Biden, are each scheduled to travel to the site of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
In 2012, more than 100 Islamic radicals attacked a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, waging a 13-hour machine-gun battle that took the life of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
In Morocco, the intended target of the terrorists has not been disclosed nor has the likely timing of any suspected attack.
Morocco is a close ally of the U.S. and the timing of the raid won’t go unnoticed at the White House. The U.S. and Morocco are each members of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and have spearheaded an initiative to create a more efficient travel watch list and terrorist screening infrastructure. In addition, Morocco and U.S. intelligence agencies frequently share phone intercepts, satellite images, and human-intelligence reports.
(Edited by David Martosko and Judy Isacoff.)
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