Morocco: Tracking Terror

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      Many have criticized the world Muslim community for not being more aggressive in identifying and stopping violently radical elements within their own religion. But one Muslim country has done exactly that.

      Morocco is in an area of North Africa called the Maghreb, which has become a hotbed of Islamic terrorist activity.

      There were 15 terrorist attacks in the region in 2011 and 1,105 in 2014.

      But of all those attacks, only one targeted Morocco.

      So how has Morocco achieved relative safety compared to its neighbors and what can we learn from it? Full Measure Correspondent Scott Thuman found two people with some answers.

      Morocco is one of the world's top tourist destinations. It's known for stunning desert scenes, ancient architecture, and at least one Hollywood movie, Casablanca. The film was set during World War II, when Morocco played a role in the French resistance against Hitler.

      But since the attacks on Paris and other terrorist assaults, the Moroccans are front and center in another resistance against Islamic extremists.

      Mohammed Benhammou heads the Moroccan Center for Strategic Studies. For him, the threat is as clear as the numbers of foreign fighters they track.

      Mohammed Benhammou: When you have global view on this phenomenon, as we know, we have in the region 1,000 from Algeria, 5,200 foreign terrorist fighters from Tunisia, and when we move to the north in Europe, we have 1,700 from France, 815 from Belgium, and so we have today a very clear idea of all this nationality, and where these terrorists from where they are coming.

      Thuman: When it comes to fighting terror some have argued, that it's not the U.S. It's not the UK, but that it's Morocco that perhaps has the right formula, the formula for success in fighting terror. Is that true?

      Benhammou: I think that Morocco, since the terrorist attack on Casablanca in May, 2003, developed a very good experience.

      The 2003 Casablanca attacks were a wake up call. Twelve Islamic extremist suicide bombers killed 33 people. Thousands of Moroccans responded with marches and banners that read, "say no to terrorism". Within a year, 2,000 people had been arrested in connection with the attacks.

      Benhammou: We know more about these terrorist groups, the networking, how they greet and look for the funding. The second pillar was to manage the religious spectrum, of course managing the mosque. That imam role and the mission of the imam must be important, that they do now just to pray and to parish, and not to use the mosque for giving political speech or violent speech.

      Thuman: Why is Morocco getting it right?

      (Ret.) General Kip Ward: The issue of cultural understanding, I think, is something we could certainly take a lesson from.

      Retired General Kip Ward was the first commander of Africa Command, AFRICOM, in charge of all U.S. forces operating in Africa from 2007 to 2011, which plays a key role in counterterrorism efforts.

      Gen. Ward: We certainly spent time with that in AFRICOM, trying to better understand the environment. And so we have to do a better job of understanding the cultural and societal implications for our actions where we are in fact doing our activities, and that's something that Morocco pays attention to.

      Thuman: What is it when it comes to fighting terror that you think has allowed Morocco to not only prevent more attacks in its own territory but also for attacks elsewhere?

      Gen. Ward: I think that's certainly a big key, their intelligence. Having eyes and ears, having an understanding of what's going on in neighborhoods, putting the picture together, to help better understand what's going on, and I think part of Morocco's success is their network of knowledge that they have put together to understand what's going on inside of their country.

      Dr. Benhammou says the key to Morocco's success is they make human intelligence, not technology, their first focus and rely heavily on what they call a Hadar, a system of interagency sharing of that vital information, combined with strict border controls and harsh gun laws.