Ansar al Sharia Morocco does not hide ‘sympathy’ for AQIM

Al Monitor has translated an article published on Dec. 10 by TelQuel (Morocco) that concerns Ansar al Sharia in Morocco, a group I wrote up here.

The relevant paragraphs from the TelQuel article are the following:

On Oct. 17, after the afternoon prayers in the al-Inbiaat neighborhood of Salé, two individuals were arrested as they were about to storm a house in the neighborhood. Their target? An old woman they accused of witchcraft. Their goal? According to police sources, they planned to hang her. When they were arrested, they were carrying knives, hoods, a hammer and two ropes, one of which was tied and ready for use.

“These two persons are known to the police, which has been watching them for some time,” said a security source in Rabat. The two had finished prison sentences for terrorism and one of them was released in late 2010. Information obtained from their interrogation helped the National Brigade of the Judicial Police arrest eight other alleged members of a terrorist cell.

A few days later, another cell affiliated with Ansar al-Sharia in the Islamic Maghreb was dismantled. According to security sources, its eight members were about to act. They had readied explosives to attack government buildings, public figures and tourist attractions.

Sharia advocates

“Giving Sharia its true place in society,” “warning against secularism and man-made laws” and “working to restore the Caliphate” are just a few points in the manifesto issued in early September by a new group calling itself Ansar al-Sharia in Morocco. That group first appeared on social networks. It was present at the street demonstrations against the film Innocence of Muslims, especially in northern cities like Tangier, Martil, Tetouan and Fnideq, where it was out in force. It has benefited from the “advice” of several famous Moroccan Salafists such as Omar Haddouchi, who was pardoned in April 2011, and Fatiha Mejjati, aka Umm Adam.

What are some of the features of Ansar al-Sharia in Morocco? First is their flag, which is identical to that of their counterparts in Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. It is a black flag displaying the slogan “there is no God but God.” They claim to have no connections to foreign countries, but they do not hide their sympathy for extremist movements around the world, first among them al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghre[b].

Their leaders? Until a few days ago, nobody claimed to be their leader. But on Sunday, Oct. 21, police arrested a certain Younsi Hassan in Tetouan, when he was visiting a few “brothers.” Known among Salafists for his activism, the former inmate presented himself as one of the leaders of Ansar al-Sharia in Morocco. A local source said, “We suspect that this group is recruiting jihadists to fight in Syria, especially in Tetouan.”

In other words, the Ansar al Sharia chapter in Morocco sounds an awful lot like the others.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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