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Escape of Nine Prisoners from the Kenitra Prison in Morocco - page 3 / 4

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incident have brought the Kenitra prison staff under severe scrutiny. The details that emerged of the lifestyle al-Wazzani was able to enjoy in prison and his method of escape suggest that prison staff can be bribed to help prisoners break out.

These escapes threaten the accountability of Moroccan authorities and could undermine the international community’s confidence in Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts. The letter the prisoners left behind indicated that they had worked alone. But many in Morocco believe that the requirements of the escape suggest they had help.

There has been speculation that some workers in prison have been radicalized and helped the prisoners to escape. Dr. Mohammed Dareef, a Moroccan expert on Islamic groups, told the Al-Akhbar Moroccan Newspaper that there are indications throughout the last year that people working in prison are being influenced by the prisoners and their Salafist Jihadist ideology. Dr. Dareef believes these prisoners received protection and shelter right after their escape in addition to assistance digging the tunnel. 12

The prison escape led Moroccan security forces to enhance the security measures of political and Islamist detainees. The situation of Morocco’s Islamist detainees is currently unstable, as almost 900 prisoners nationwide are on a hunger strike to protest mistreatment and poor conditions in prison.13 Islamist groups opposing the Moroccan government want “political prisoner’s status” which they believe will entitle them to better treatment. Several human rights groups claimed that prisoners lack appropriate food and healthcare.14 The escaped prisoners stated in the letter they left behind that the poor conditions of prison were the main reason for their escape.

Terrorism in Morocco

There are several terrorist groups active in Morocco, the largest of which is al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb. The group began in Algeria, but has plans to spread throughout North Africa and has successfully recruited Moroccan members. Other militant groups include the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM), whose members were involved in the Madrid train bombings in March 2004, Assirat al- Mustaqim (“The Right Path”) and Attakfir wal Hijrah (“Excommunicated and Migration”). There are also several home grown militant organizations that are self

12 “Hamid Zaatshi: Moroccan Expert to Al-Khabar: Workers in Moroccan Prisons Affected by Jihadi Salafism”Al- Akhbar, 9 April 2008 http://www.elkhabar.com/quotidien/?ida=104704&idc=31

13 “AFP: Casablanca Bombing Convicts Tunnel Out of Prison: Officials” AFP, 8 April 2008 http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gMlNOUSy4PsOuLYOecBPRLwbKqig “Montasir Hamada: Embarrassing Questions After the Hollywood Escape of Extremists” Arab Online, 11 April 2008 http://www.alarabonline.org/index.asp?fname=%5C2008%5C04%5C04- 11%5C854.htm&dismode=x&ts=11/04/2008%2005:26:57%20%D8%B5

14 “Al-Jazeera: Morocco Bombers in Jail Break” Al-Jazeera, 7 April 2008 http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/74D92393-ECEA-4BA1-A215-15CE18E0B1EA.htm

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