By Nabil Darwish
Asharq al-Awsat, Rabat- Several Moroccan politicians and intellectuals have received death threats from extremist Islamist groups in recent weeks while the authorities have released further information to the media on a terrorist cell with links to al Qaeda said to be on the verge carrying out attacks this December.
A group calling itself â€œThe Moroccan Islamic Army for Shariaaâ€ recently threatened Mohammad al Yazghi, secretary general of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces and Minister of Territorial Development, Idriss Lashgar, Head of the socialist bloc in parliament and Fathallah Oualalou, Minister of Economy and Finance.
According to Abdullah al Rami, an expert on al Qaedaâ€™s activities in cyberspace, nothing suggests that the threats were genuine. However, he told Asharq al Awsat, militants Islamists consider secular figures and democrats as indifesl who have renounced Islam and believe murdering them is permissible.
â€œIn theory, socialists are apostates but murdering them is unlikely because of a lack of war with this category. Nevertheless, smaller groups might seize the initiative and carry out these threats, as was the case with the murder of Jarallah Omar, the socialist leader in Yemen.â€
â€œThe Moroccan Islamic Army for the Shariaa is an unknown group. The most important militant group to emerge from Morocco in recent months is Usbat al Fallah [the League of Farmers]. The group issued a powerful communiquÃ© from Syria in November,â€ he added.
With many militant leaders in jail, â€œThe control of extremist cells has passed to members of the â€œSalafi Jihadâ€ group, currently active in Iraq and Afghanistan,â€ al Rami indicated, adding that the network was trying to re-organize itself in line with the current situation, the war in Iraq and the emergence of Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
Following the terrorist attacks in Casablanca in May 2003, the Moroccan authorities clamped down and arrested several militant leaders. This, according to al Rami, has lead to a power vacuum whereby any individual is now able to declare themselves head of an extremist cell.