Investigations into Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad bil-Maghrib (the Monotheism and Jihad group in Morocco) cells broken up by Moroccan security have revealed the inroads al-Qaeda has made into the region (see Terrorism Focus, Volume II, Issue 22). From the testimony of the arrested Belgian national Mohamed R’ha, al-Qaeda has emphasized the restructuring of its organization in Saudi Arabia and set up affiliate organizations in North Africa. As part of the broader restructuring plan, the Algerian Groupe Salafiste pour la PrÃ©dication et le Combat (GSPC) is to rejoin bin Laden’s organization and provide support bases for its expansion, in order to more effectively target pro-U.S. regimes in the region.
The details released from the investigation add to the messages that were intended to be delivered to bin Laden via Abu Baseer the Algerian. The first of these was the call to active al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia that had already been installed to replace the recent losses from Saudi intelligence crackdowns. A second message contains the plan to have the GSPC make formal bay’a (allegiance) to Osama bin Laden and take over the administration of the North African jihad under this aegis. The third message indicates efforts to create al-Qaeda organizations in each North African country and a program to unite them with North Africans residing in Europe. The process behind these objectives includes the recruitment of volunteers for training in GSPC camps in Algeria, followed by their military activity against the Algerian security forces, before being sent to Syria, pending suicide operations carried out by members across the border in Iraq. Moroccan volunteers who returned to North Africa would form sleeper cells awaiting instructions from al-Qaeda.
Volunteers from North Africa have played important roles in al-Zarqawi’s group in Iraq, but interestingly, UPI reported on December 4 that al-Zarqawi appears to have rejected a contingent of Algerian recruits, fearing that they were infiltrated by U.S. intelligence. The thoroughness of the security response in North Africa is making security difficult for the mujahideen. Following the May 2003 multiple bombings in Casablanca, the arena has become even less orderly, with a number of previously unknown groups declaring themselves and issuing threats against the government. One group, “The Moroccan Islamic Army for Shari’ah,” has been issuing threats to leading Socialist figures such as Minister of Territorial Development Mohammad al-Yazghi, the head of the socialist bloc in parliament Idriss Lashgar and Minister of Economy and Finance Fathallah Oualalou. Meanwhile, remnants of the Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a, heavily affected by the post-Casablanca crackdown, formed the Usbat al-Falah (The Salvation League) and announced its existence in a communiquÃ© from the Syrian jihadi forum Minbar Suriya al-Islami last November, declaring jihad on the Moroccan state (www.nnuu.org/vb; Focus Volume II, Issue 20).
On November 24, a day after the posting on the Usbat al-Falah, the same Syrian forum hosted a posting containing the Charter of the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad bil-Maghrib signed by two Moroccans, the “commander” Abu al-Zubayr and the “media wing” Abu Muhammad. The text, addressed “To the Lions of Monotheism in all parts of the country,” issued complaints against the Moroccan state, focusing on the substitution of the Shari’ah with a “government based on man-made infidel laws,” and the “education of a new apostate generation that will tend the seedling of the infidel colonizers after their departure.” The Charter identifies these as more dangerous than the colonizers, “since this group comes from among us, speaks our language, and most of the populace know little about them; the disbelief of apostasy is more injurious than original disbelief.” The Charter goes on to describe the existence of “a blessed group resolved to rise up against the criminal tyrant [King Muhammad VI], to fight him and his party â€¦ in the path of jihad in the land of Tariq bin Ziyad [the Conqueror of Spain] and [leader of the Almoravids] Yusuf bin Tashufin â€¦ to fight the apostate hordes and tear up their roots.” The authors of the Charter, however, lay stress on the limitations they place on the process of takfir (declaring someone a disbeliever), confining it to those committing overt acts contrary to the core practices of Islam, rather than extending to the evaluation of the individual’s level of personal piety. This, no doubt, distinguishes the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad bil-Maghrib from the takfiri groups such as the Algerian GIA, or the absolutist excesses of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi (www.nnuu.org/vb).