News / Africa

Morocco says Dismantled International Drug Trafficking Ring Linked to Terrorists

Anne Look

The Moroccan government is calling for regional action in the face of growing collaboration between drug traffickers and terrorists in the Sahel. 

Morocco's Interior Ministry confirmed Friday in Rabat that police had arrested 34 members of an international drug trafficking ring that had ties to the terrorist group, al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb.

Authorities said the traffickers, who also had links to South American drug cartels, were transporting cocaine and marijuana from South America to Europe, via North Africa.

Morocco Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui said with these arrests there is now, what he called, "an apparent coordination and confirmed collaboration" between drug traffickers and al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb in the region.

Cherqaoui says the terrorists are searching for ways to finance their terrorist activities.  To make money, he says terrorist groups are using their knowledge of desert routes, their weapons and their means of transportation to protect drug dealers moving through the Sahel region.

Cherqaoui said countries in the Sahel must remain vigilant and develop shared strategies in the face of this dangerous cooperation.

Last week, experts from North African countries and their G8 counterparts met in Bamako to discuss boosting counter-terrorism cooperation in the region.  

Africa security analyst J. Peter Pham of the New York-based National Committee on American Foreign Policy said al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb alliances with drug smugglers are troubling. "It means that we face an increasing security challenge that may mean greater violence, greater success, if you will, for both criminal elements and the terrorists," Pham said. "It is an increasing challenge both for governments in the region and internationally that calls for greater cooperation."

Pham says the issue is further complicated by the ongoing situation of the Polisario Front and the controversy over Western Sahara, a disputed territory bordering Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania.

For nearly 40 years, the Algerian-backed Polisario Front has sought the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco.  Pham says al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb is turning to these Saharawis fighters to carry out attacks, as was seen in last year's kidnapping of three Spanish aid workers who have since been released.

"What al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has done in the last two years is actually to recruit, we have evidence from Mauritania and Mali of recruiting Saharawis who are trained fighters to carry out their operations.  Not for ideological reasons, but purely the pragmatic reasons of having a trained fighter who is capable of carrying out a military operation, such as a kidnapping or protecting of a smuggling operation," Pham states.

Al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb continues to kidnap foreign nationals in the region, sometimes killing them.  Most recently, on September 16, the group grabbed five French nationals, one Madagascan and one Togolese from a large French uranium mine in Niger.  The terrorist group is believed to be holding the hostages in neighboring Mali.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs