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Moroccan Isis terrorists ‘pose a threat on Europe’s doorstep’




As the hunt intensifies for members of a Moroccan-led cell thought to be responsible for the terror attacks in Spain, attention has turned to the hundreds of returned jihadists across the Strait of Gibraltar who intelligence officials fear pose a large, residual threat on Europe’s doorstep.

Up to 1,000 jihadists are thought to have been smuggled back to Morocco and Tunisia from the battlefields of Islamic State’s now crumbling caliphate. About 300 are thought to have returned to Morocco, from where six of the 12 terrorists who carried out the attacks in Catalonia are believed to have hailed.

A former leading member of the extremist group’s external operations arm said the exodus of Isis fighters included militants who had fled disenfranchisement and lives of petty crime and felt aggrieved by their status in Europe – particularly France. With the land controlled by Isis shrinking by the week, he believes that some of them will take their grievances back to their countries of birth and use the proximity of Spain to launch attacks, or infiltrate further into the continent.

At the height of Isis’s powers, up to 1,600 Moroccans are believed to have travelled to Iraq and Syria, making them, per capita, one of the largest national groups in the fast-shrinking caliphate. Roughly half that number have since been killed. Long feared as a breeding ground for extremists, north Africa is now increasingly being seen as a launchpad for attacks on Europe to avenge Isis’s loss of land and personnel.
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