Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group

The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) was a Sunni Islamist militant organization operating in Morocco, North Africa and Western Europe.

AT A GLANCE

Overview

Brief Summary of the Organization's History.

Organization

How does a group organize? Who leads it? How does it finance operations?

Strategy

How does a group fight? What are its aims and ideologies? What are some of its major attacks?

Major Attacks

What are the group's most famous attacks? What are some key attacks in the group's evolution?

Interactions

What is the group's relationship with the community? How does it interact with other groups?

Maps

What is the group's relationship with other militants over time?

Key Statistics

1998 First Recorded Activity
2003 First Attack
2004 Last Recorded Activity

Contact

mappingmilitants [at] lists [dot] stanford [dot] edu

How to Cite:

Mapping Militant Organizations. “Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.” Stanford University. Last modified July 2018. <https://internal.fsi.stanford.edu/content/mmp-moroccan-islamic-combatant-group>

Overview

Brief History

    Overview
  • Overview
  • Narrative

Overview

 

Formed1998
DisbandedMid to Late 2000s
First AttackMay 16, 2003: GICM was involved in a suicide bombing around Casablanca by Salafi-jihadi militants. 14 militants detonated bombs in 5 synchronized attacks, targeting Western and Israeli civilians and establishments. 2 bombers were arrested prior to their attempted detonations (45 killed, 100+ wounded).
Last AttackMarch 11, 2004: GICM had links to the AQ-affiliated Salafi-jihadist militants responsible for train bombings in Madrid, Spain. Three days prior to a Spanish general election, ten bombs detonated on four different trains heading for central Madrid; news sources frequently cite the incident as the most devastating Islamist terror attack in Europe (191 killed, 2050 wounded).
UpdatedJuly 23, 2018

The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) was a Sunni Islamist militant group established after 1998 that sought to install a fundamentalist Islamist government in Morocco. The group arose when veteran fighters of the mujahideen in Afghanistan returned to Morocco to start a militant organization. GICM operated various sleeper cells in Morocco, neighboring countries, and Western Europe, through which it sought to coordinate activities with other North African Salafi-jihadists, advance recruitment efforts, and establish bases for launching jihad attacks in the west. GICM participated in or supported several high profile attacks, notably the 2003 Casablanca bombings and the 2004 Madrid bombings. As a result of western counterterrorism efforts and the Moroccan government’s campaign to arrest Moroccan militants, the group is considered to be extremely weak or dissolved. Remaining GICM members are believed to have been absorbed into different groups or continuing to operate autonomously, independent of the GICM label.

Narrative

The Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) was a Sunni Islamist militant group that sought to install a fundamentalist Islamist government in Morocco. The GICM acronym stems from the French translation of the group's name, Groupe Islamique Combattante Marocain. The organization had its origins in the Moroccan fighters who traveled to Afghanistan to fight as part of the mujahideen against the Soviets. While the militants initially joined forces with members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), rifts between the LIFG and Moroccan fighters led the Moroccans to establish their own organization; returning to Morocco in 1993, these veterans militants later formed GICM. The early members of GICM sought change and mobilization similar to what was accomplished by the Taliban.[i] Specifically, they sought to displace the governing Moroccan monarchy with an Islamic caliphate.[ii]

GICM initially absorbed several militant cells already operating in Morocco. The group remained relatively invisible on the world stage until May 2003, when GICM was involved in a suicide bombing around Casablanca. The bombing resulted in the deaths of 33 Moroccan and western civilians, and wounded over 100 people.[iii] Following this high-profile attack, the Moroccan government began to crackdown on militants operating in the country, arresting and trying up to 2000 suspected jihadists. The government labelled these fighters as members of “Salafia Jihadia”; today, this label is considered to have referred to militants generally following the Salafi-jihadist ideology, rather than a distinct militant organization.[iv]

GICM operated various sleeper cells in Morocco, neighboring countries, and Western Europe, through which it sought to coordinate activities with other North African Salafi-jihadists, advance recruitment efforts, and establish bases for launching jihad attacks in the west.[v] These cells managed many of GICM’s criminal activities, primarily document falsification and trafficking of arms and drugs, especially in Western Europe. These activities served as the main source of funding for GICM. GICM’s numerous militant cells also allowed the group to maintain logistical and financial connections with other militant groups. GICM had strong ties to Al Qaeda (AQ) and received training and logistical support from AQ and AQ-affiliate Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).[vi] GICM allegedly also assisted AQ with efforts to recruit and assimilate members into European countries as external operatives.[vii] One of GICM’s European cells supported 3 AQ-affiliated militants who later participated in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, frequently cited as one of the most devasting Islamist attacks in European history.[viii]

GICM’s activities in Morocco and Western Europe deteriorated significantly due to western counterterrorism efforts and the Moroccan government’s campaign to arrest GICM and affiliated groups in the 2000s. The group also suffered serious reductions in the amount of territory it controls in Morocco. In the late 2000s, numerous militant cells in Morocco with possible links to GICM were detected and forced to dismantle.[ix] It is suspected that remaining GICM members and sleeper cells have been absorbed into different groups or continue to operate autonomously, independent of the GICM label. One possible indication of GICM’s dissolution is that other militant groups in Morocco, such as the LIFG and AQIM, have recently announced mergers or affiliation with AQ; however, AQ has not indicated any affiliation with GICM in nearly a decade.[x]



[i] Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Institute for the Study of Violent Groups, n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

[ii] “Proscribed Terrorist Organisations.” UK Home Office, 22 Dec. 2017. Web. 26 June 2018.

[iii] Goodman, Al. "2 Seized over Casablanca Bombings - CNN." CNN, 03 Nov. 2006. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

[iv] Pargeter, Alison. “The Islmiast Movement in Morocco.” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 23 May 2005. Web. 20 July 2018.

[v] Pargeter, Alison. “The Islmiast Movement in Morocco.” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 23 May 2005. Web. 20 July 2018.

[vi] "Morocco Protests Touch on Democracy and Terrorism." The New York Times, 02 May 2011. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

[vii] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012

[viii] Hamilos, Paul. “The worst Islamist attack in European history.” The Guardian, 31 Oct. 2007. Web. 20 July 2018.

[ix] Pargeter, Alison. “The Islmiast Movement in Morocco.” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 23 May 2005. Web. 20 July 2018; Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

[x] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Hassan Haski (Unknown to Unknown)
  • Mohamed al-Guerbouzi (Unknown to Present)
  • Abdelkarim el-Mejjati (late 1990s to 2004)
  • Nourredine Nafia (late 1990s to unknown)

Leadership

This section describes various leaders, their deputies, and other important officials in the militant organization.

GICM operated numerous sleeper cells in Morocco and Europe, the leaders of which are unknown or have not been confirmed. It is not known whether GICM had one primary leader.[i] In 2010, the U.S. State Department reported that most of GICM's leadership had been imprisoned or killed.[ii]



[i] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 23 Aug. 2011.

[ii] Arieff, Alexis. "Morocco: Current Issues." United States Congressional Research Service, 11 July 2011. Web. 24 Aug. 2011

 

Hassan Haski (Unknown to Unknown)

Haski was considered one of the masterminds of the Madrid train bombings. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in the bombing.[i]



[i] "Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 Middle East and North Africa Overview." U.S. Department of State Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, 5 Aug. 2010. Web. 24 Aug. 2011. 

 

Mohamed al-Guerbouzi (Unknown to Present)

Guerbouzi is suspected of serving as representative of GICM in Europe and leader of the organization, but he has denied any relationship with the group. He was convicted by Morocco, in absentia, to a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the 2003 Casablanca bombing.[i]



[i] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

Abdelkarim el-Mejjati (late 1990s to 2004)

Mejjati was one of the founding leaders of the group. He later became a leader of Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, and was killed in Saudi Arabia in 2004.[i]



[i] Jésus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

Nourredine Nafia (late 1990s to unknown)

Nafia, a Moroccan militant and an early leader of GICM, was convicted for his role in the 2003 Casablanca attacks. In the 1990s, he allegedly a drafted 33-page charter of the group’s doctrine.[i]



[i] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

    Name Changes
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Name Changes

There are no recorded name changes for this group.

Size Estimates

There are no reputable or precise estimates of GICM's size at any point in its history. Due to numerous arrests and members' strong ties to other organizations, group membership never stabilized at a specific size.[i]



[i] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

Resources

Much of GICM's funding came from its involvement in criminal activities abroad. These included document forgeries, the drug trade, and weapons smuggling throughout North Africa and Europe.[i] The group received training and logistical support from AQIM and other Salafi-jihadist militant groups in Morocco.



[i] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

The group was based in Morocco, but had numerous operational cells or affiliates in Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, and European nations such as Spain, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. GICM’s main European base was in the United Kingdom.[i]

While GICM used to have strong control over its European cells in Europe, some analysts believe that these cells have been absorbed into different militant groups or operate autonomously, not under the GICM label.[ii]



[i] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd; Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.” UN Security Council, 14 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 July 2018.

[ii] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

GICM was a Salafi-Jihadist organization. GICM’s members were often grouped under the “Salafia Jihadia” group label coined by the Moroccan government in the late 1990s and early 2000s, referring broadly to militants that follow Salafi-jihadism. Its goal was to establish an Islamic caliphate in Morocco by overthrowing the governing Moroccan monarchy.[i] GICM sought to support AQ in its goal of waging a global jihad.[ii] The group allegedly also assisted with efforts to recruit members for AQ and assimilate them into European countries as external operatives.[iii]



[i] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012; “Proscribed Terrorist Organisations.” UK Home Office, 22 Dec. 2017. Web. 26 June 2018.

[ii] “Proscribed Terrorist Organisations.” UK Home Office, 22 Dec. 2017. Web. 26 June 2018.

[iii] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012

 

Political Activities

GICM published a magazine entitled 'Sada al-Maghrabi' (Reign of Morocco).[i] The group did not have a political affiliation or agenda outside of displacing the governing Moroccan monarchy and installing an Islamic fundamentalist government.



[i] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012.

 

Targets and Tactics

GICM utilized suicide bombings and IED attacks against Western and Israeli targets to achieve its goals. The group was also involved in arms trafficking and drug trade, though these served more as sources of financial support than as violent tactics.

GICM operated various sleeper cells in Morocco, neighboring countries, and Western Europe, through which it sought to coordinate activities with other militant groups, advance recruitment efforts, and establish bases for launching jihad attacks in the west.[i]

GICM has been accused of helping to plan, finance, and perpetrate violent acts in support of AQ.[ii] The group allegedly also assisted with efforts to recruit members for AQ and assimilate them into European countries as external operatives.[iii]



[i] Pargeter, Alison. “The Islmiast Movement in Morocco.” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 23 May 2005. Web. 20 July 2018.

[ii] “Proscribed Terrorist Organisations.” UK Home Office, 22 Dec. 2017. Web. 26 June 2018.

[iii] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012

 

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing, but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

  1. May 16, 2003: GICM was involved in a suicide bombing around Casablanca by Salafi-jihadi militants. 14 militants detonated bombs in 5 synchronized attacks, targeting Western and Israeli civilians and establishments. 2 bombers were arrested prior to their attempted detonations (45 killed, 100+ wounded).[i]
  2. March 11, 2004: GICM had strong links to the AQ-affiliated Salafi-jihadist militants responsible for train bombings in Madrid, Spain. Three days prior to a Spanish general election, ten bombs detonated on four different trains heading for central Madrid; news sources frequently cite the incident as the most devastating Islamist terror attack in Europe (191 killed, 2050 wounded).[ii]


[i] Goodman, Al. "2 Seized over Casablanca Bombings - CNN." CNN, 03 Nov. 2006. Web. 06 Aug. 2012; Maghraoui, Abdeslam. “Morocco’s Reforms after the Casablanca Bombings.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 26 Aug. 2008. Web. 20 July 2018.

[ii] Reinares, Fernando. "The Evidence of Al-Qa’ida’s Role in the 2004 Madrid Attack." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, March 2012. Web. 23 July 2018; Sciolino, Elaine. “Morocco Connection is Emerging as Sleeper Threat in Terror War.” The New York Times, 16 May 2004. Web. 23 July 2018; Whitlock, Craig. “Investigators Explore Link to Madrid Attacks.” The Washington Post, 09 July 2005. Web. 23 July 2018.

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/ Listed
  • Designated/ Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/ Listed

  • UNSC “ISIL (Da'esh) & Al-Qaida Sanctions List”: October 10, 2002 to Present. [i]
  • U.S. State Department Foreign Terrorist Organization: October 3, 2005 to Present.[ii]
  • United Kingdom Home Office Proscribed Terrorist Organization: October 2005 to Present.[iii]


[i] Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.” UN Security Council, 14 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 July 2018.

[ii] “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” U.S. Department of State. Web. 2 November 2015; “Designation of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.” U.S. Department of State, 11 Oct. 2005. Web. 20 July 2018.  

[iii] “Proscribed Terrorist Organisations.” UK Home Office, 22 Dec. 2017. Web. 26 June 2018.

 

Community Relations

At its height, it is unclear if GICM maintained positive relations with Moroccan civilians or local communities in the regions in which it operated.

Relationships with Other Groups

GICM had its origins in the Moroccan fighters who traveled to Afghanistan to fight as part of the mujahideen against the Soviets GICM. These fighters initially joined the Libyan camp managed by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) but broke away to establish their own organization.[i]

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Moroccan government grouped GICM, alongside other militants in Morocco, under the “Salafia Jihadia” group label, which broadly referred to militants in the country that followed Salafi-jihadism. GICM is suspected of having operational and logistical ties to several of these militant groups, and interacting with other Moroccan militants through its criminal activities.[ii]

GICM supported the activity of Al Qaeda (AQ) and its regional affiliates. The group was allegedly inspired by AQ’s goal of waging a global jihad and helped to plan, finance, and perpetrate violent acts in support of AQ.[iii] GICM also recruited militants for AQ through its operational cells in Western Europe and North Africa and assimilated them into European countries as external operatives.[iv] GICM was responsible for training three AQ-affiliated jihadists who ultimately participated in the 2004 Madrid train bombings.[v] The group received training and logistical support from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other Salafi-jihadist militant groups in Morocco. Unlike AQIM and the LIFG, however, GICM did not merge directly with AQ.[vi]



[i] Pargeter, Alison. “The Islmiast Movement in Morocco.” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, 23 May 2005. Web. 20 July 2018.

[ii] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2016). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd.

[iii] “Proscribed Terrorist Organisations.” UK Home Office, 22 Dec. 2017. Web. 26 June 2018; “Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.” UN Security Council, 14 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 July 2018.

[iv] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012

[v] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 06 Aug. 2012

[vi] Jesus, Carlos E. "The Current State of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group." Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, 15 March 2009. Web. 23 Aug. 2011.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

There are no publicly available external influences for this group.

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that “map” relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.

Evolving Militant Interactions

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