Monday, May 9, 2011

Morocco: The Lessons Of The Arkana Explosion

By Mohammad el-Ashab 
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 08/05/2011 

On the eighth day, the Moroccan authorities announced the solving of the mystery of the Arkana restaurant explosion in Marrakesh by arresting the man who planned the explosion and two suspected accomplices. This was sufficient to assert that a terrorist and hideous crime cannot go unpunished. However, the fact that the suspects are persons who are immersed in radical thinking indicates that the threats of the growth of terrorism are still there.

The efforts aimed at reorganizing the religious field as well as the method of granting pardons to former inmates have failed to remove this phenomenon, which was believed to have decreased due to the preemptive strikes. After the elapse of four years on the suicide attacks in Casablanca in 2003, the black faces of the suicide bombers wearing explosive belts reappeared in 2007. Then, another four years later, there was the terrorist attack that rocked Marrakech.

What are the most suitable methods in countering this kind of threats that are reaping the souls of the innocent ones without making any differentiation between religion, race, or affiliation? The Moroccan authorities have tried all the available formulas. They revived old methods aiming at restructuring the religious fields; and this helped in decreasing the phenomenon but did not however remove it completely. They also reverted to intellectual reviews. These helped in correcting the concepts and launching dialogues that caused a decrease in the aspect of incitement. However, they [the authorities] were surprised by the fact that this direction did not drive them out from the circle of danger.

There is no shame in that. Indeed, the Marrakesh attack has shown that the war against terrorism is an open one and that the dismantlement of the largest possible number of cells has not prevented the pressure. This implies that the intellectual references are responsible for the proliferation of these behaviors that now transcend the features of the well-known organizations. The presence of an intellectual or structural connection between the implementer of the operation and Al-Qaeda gives way to new interpretations. These mainly imply that there is a need to design an alternative war in order to terminate the terrorist phenomenon. This cannot be achieved, specifically in the North African region, outside the realm of the regional cooperation.

The coordination between Morocco, France, and several European countries allowed for the formation of a new front based on security approaches that seem closer to the European dealing. Addressing the issue of the developmental challenges is the only thing that is capable of providing more effective dimensions to this coordination. In addition, if the Maghreb countries, namely Morocco and Algeria, were to join efforts in facing the common security challenges, this would prevent the threats of the terrorist infection from spreading in the region, as well as the Mediterranean European countries.

The Europeans do not consider the Marrakesh incident as being isolated from the kidnapping and killing of their citizens in the coastal area of the southern desert. Similarly, it is the duty of the Maghreb countries to assess these threats in a preemptive manner. These countries have not been sufficiently pondering the terrorist blows dealt against Algeria. Meanwhile, the latter opted for political contradictions rather than a bundle of regional coordination in the face of threats that are facing everyone.

The fact that the man who planned the Marrakesh explosion used old methods to prepare the explosives that were placed at the Arkana restaurant is perhaps an indication to the fact that the concern is now doubled. This is because the supporters of the Al-Qaeda radical train of thought are no longer in need of weapons to carry out their attacks. They are rather using a traditional technique. The threat lies in the aspect of such an adventure, whether it is an individual or a collective one.

The Moroccans and their European partners were relieved following the arrest of the persons implicated in the incident. But this is not the end of the road. Caution and concern have previously helped in carrying out preemptive strikes that were proven to be efficient. Now the time has come to enhance the preemptive concern and make it comprehensive in order to extract terrorism from its roots before it proliferates and strikes randomly in all directions.

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