Victory by Morocco’s Islamist party in the country’s recent election may elevate the threat to U.S. and Western security and assets in the region, according to sources.
The Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD) won the most seats in Morocco’s Parliament in a November election, and new laws in the west African nation will lift the party’s head, Abdelilah Benkirane, to Prime Minister.
King Mohammed VI on Tuesday appointed Benkirane head of government with the task of forming a governing coalition, according to The Associated Press. The Prime Minister shares power with a king in the country's monarchical system.
PJD is a moderate Islamic organization, whose supporters called for an end to corruption and infidelity within the Moroccan justice system.
But the government transition may be cause for alarm.
A combination of a misguided government – the result of the outdated parliamentary monarchy – and judicial corruption threaten to weaken security in the country; and by extension, security for foreign partners and tourists.
"The judicial system's lack of independence and the corresponding lack of public confidence are impediments to the country's development and reform efforts," a U.S. Embassy statement said, according to The Associated Press.
Although Morocco has enjoyed a relatively low number of terrorist attacks, there is concern that terror sects have been trying to infiltrate the country.
Reports earlier this week found that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is gaining influence throughout Saharan communities, including those in nearby Algeria, Mali and Mauritania.
It is not directly AQIM who is endangering Morocco, but it is freelance terror sects, influenced by AQIM, that are determined to strike.
These copycat terrorists may open the door for AQIM to act on it’s stated goal of infiltrating all of north Africa.
Moroccan Communication Minister Khaled Naciri said the indirect threat posed by AQIM is enough worry officials, even if the group doesn’t have a major presence within the country’s borders.
"The links with al-Qaida, with terrorism in Algeria, are always done by individuals," Naciri told the AP of the freelance terrorists. He added that AQIM would "try to gain a foothold in every country in North Africa, including Morocco.”
The disputed territory directly below Morocco, Western Sahara, may prove to be an effective avenue for AQIM and freelance terrorists to infiltrate the country. It is sparsely populated and consists of mostly desert flatlands, but that is the precise geography in which AQIM has thrived.
The government transition provides an opening for terror groups – AQIM or otherwise – to infiltrate the country and attack more tourist landmarks.
Seventeen people were killed earlier this year when a bomb exploded in a café in Marrakesh. AQIM denied responsibility but city police pinpointed three terrorists who “admire Al-Qaeda, are filled with Al-Qaeda ideology and with Salafist [a radical Islamic sect] ideology.”
Police also said the terrorists chose Marrakesh explicitly because it is a tourist destination.
Whether terrorism increases in Morocco may depend on a governmental shift. Advocacy groups like the February 20 Movement have said the king’s rule handicaps Morocco and that the only way to fight terrorism is by welcoming democracy.