Terror in Morocco

For most of the year, the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory for Morocco said American visitors should “exercise normal precautions” — the same low-risk guidance given for visiting Canada.

But the murder of two women backpacking in the Atlas Mountains before Christmas is a reminder of the long struggle against terrorism in Morocco. And in the wake of those deaths, the U.S. now is recommending U.S. visitors “exercise increased caution.”
The U.S. media assiduously cover threats to the homeland, acts of terror in Western Europe and the military’s fight against terrorists in places such as Afghanistan and Syria. Less attention is given to terror in other parts of the world, such as Africa. But it’s real.

Remember the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenza and Tanzania that killed 224? The U.S. blamed al-Qaida. A series of suicide bombings in Casablanca, the Moroccan city, killed 33 in 2003 and a 2011 cafe bombing in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh killed 17. Those were linked to al-Qaida, too.

Morocco has detained at least 19 suspects in the deaths of 28-year-old Maren Ueland, a Norwegian, and 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, a Dane. At least four of the suspects appeared in a video pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.
To his credit, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has worked to contain extremism, partly by giving his subjects plenty of outlets for religious sentiment and partly, as one expert told the Irish Times last year, by “advancing a version of Moroccan royal Islam that has the monarch at the helm.”
Containing extremism is a matter of enlightened self-interest. Instability would be bad for the monarchy. It also threaten the country’s robust tourism industry and romantic image — helped partly by the World War II-era film “Casablanca” starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

On Dec. 27, the Moroccan government said the women’s deaths were not a sign of instability. But it also said it had disrupted several other terrorist cells this year, and some Moroccan extremists have emigrated to commit violence elsewhere.
The U.S. should do whatever it can to help its longtime ally weather the current storm so that Morocco remains a place of relative stability in a region fraught with conflict. American travelers should remember that terrorism can occur anywhere, at any time, and so vigilance must be a constant.

Source: https://www.toledoblade.com/opinion/editorials/2019/01/05/morocco-terrorism-travelers-must-be-vigilant/stories/20181231027

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