On January 15, Christiane Fourret, a 79-year-old Varoise from Muy, north of Fréjus, was beheaded at the municipal market in Tiznit with an ax. She was that day in this small town in southern Morocco because she had joined friends. All resided in a tourist camp on the outskirts of the city. For twenty years, this mother of three children spent the winter in the kingdom in a motorhome with her husband.
Earlier the same day, less than 100 km away, in Agadir, a seaside resort popular with European tourists, a 67-year-old Belgian national, from the Mons region and residing in Morocco, was violently attacked at the knife, while the suspect, common to these different cases, had tried to physically attack the customers of a cafe on the coast. If she was hospitalized, her vital prognosis is not engaged.
“Serious psychiatric history”.
Very quickly, a 31-year-old suspect, Ali Boujouham, was arrested a few kilometers from the site of the first attack. He was quickly identified thanks to CCTV footage from the Tiznit market.
According to sources familiar with the investigation, the man had serious psychiatric history “. “He counts a suicide attempt in 2012, by defenestration, at the parental home in Bouizkaren”, assure these same sources which indicate that the search at his home allowed the seizure of ” 13 prescriptions supporting his mental imbalance and prescribing him neuro-psychotropics and antidepressants that he has taken the habit of taking for years “. And to add that “During his interrogation, the respondent made incoherent remarks expressing his psychic instability”. Remarks “delusional” held during his police custody, by which he claimed in particular to have acted on the injunction of “ voice “ and saying to themselves “possessed by the devil” who allegedly ordered him to crack down on Westerners. According to the Moroccan police, the suspect had stayed for a month in a psychiatric hospital, from September 25 to October 25, 2021. Nevertheless, so far his criminal record is clean.
Uncertainty about the motives of the murderer
But uncertainties still hovered over the motives of his act. The Moroccan anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office was initially seized in this case: the public prosecutor at the Rabat Court of Appeal, specializing in terrorism, mandated the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ, anti-terrorist service) to investigate the ‘case. According to preliminary data from this survey, the hypothesis of an assault for theft “, had also been mentioned, then abandoned. Finally, the investigating judge in Rabat, after consultation with the king’s attorney general, ordered that the man be again committed to the Ar-Razi psychiatric hospital in Salé, the capital’s twin town, where he was to undergo a new psychiatric expertise.
On January 19, the French National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (PNAT) announced in a press release that it had opened an investigation for “assassination in connection with a terrorist enterprise”. The PNAT specified that the investigations were entrusted to the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), to the anti-terrorism sub-directorate of the central directorate of the judicial police and to the central directorate of the judicial police. The following day, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office also announced the opening of a file for “attempted assassination in a terrorist context”. The terrorist motive was retained in view of the profile of the victims.
Rigorous Muslim Profile
Suspicions of a terrorist motive for the crime thus remain intact. His profile “rigorous Muslim” put forward by close witnesses and supported by his style of dress and the modus operandi of his actions allow doubt.
His double attack is indeed reminiscent of a previous terrorist act of the same ilk: the beheading of two young hikers, the Danish Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and the Norwegian Maren Ueland, in December 2018, on behalf of the Islamic State group, while they were camping in the High Atlas, not far from Imlil, a tourist site in southern Morocco. The three main defendants of the double murder were sentenced to death in July 2019, even if the death penalty has not been applied in the country since 1993.
Firm security policy
The verdict was pronounced less than seven months after the events, after two and a half months of hearings. A quick trial that wanted to set an example: Through this judgment, Morocco reaffirmed its identity as a land of moderate Islam, headed by King Mohammed VI as “Commander of the Faithful”, who presides over the destinies of 35 million people. inhabitants, overwhelmingly Muslim.
The country is also the only one in the region that had not experienced terrorist attacks since the suicide attacks in Casablanca in 2003 (33 dead) and the attack in Marrakech in 2011 (17 dead). Since then, the Cherifian kingdom has implemented a firm security policy to fight against terrorism and radicalization, even promoting the expertise of its intelligence services to “friendly countries” such as France and neighboring Spain.
The current context of health restrictions linked to Covid-19 which has severely slowed down Moroccan tourism – to the point that the authorities have decided on an emergency plan to save one of the engines of the economy – he pushed Rabat to empty the terrorist character of the Ali Boujouham affair? The question deserves to be asked as anti-Western sentiment has clearly spread among the working classes downgraded by the crisis, but also fueled by a rejection of the new diplomatic alliance sealed with the State of Israel within the framework of the Abraham Accords.
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Asked on January 19 about the possibility of an opening of the borders during a great oral speech on television marking the 100 days of his taking office as head of government, Aziz Akhannouch, a wealthy businessman and Islamist killer to the legislative elections of September 2021, wanted to reassure on a decision in this direction “ in the coming weeks “. A message that cannot suffer from an internal terrorist threat while Morocco wants to be a tourist destination that plays precisely on its image as an open and tolerant country.