Modern, moderate Moroccans journeying to Iraq to join the jihad. By Craig Whitlock in the Washington Post via MSNBC, :
TETOUAN, Morocco – In the Arab world, this hilly North African city is about as far as you can get from Iraq. But for many young men here, the call to join what they view as a holy war resonates loudly across the 3,000-mile divide.
About two dozen men from Tetouan and nearby towns in the Rif Mountains have traveled to Iraq in the past 18 months to volunteer as fighters or suicide bombers, according to local residents and officials. Moroccan authorities said the men were recruited by international terrorist networks affiliated with al-Qaeda that have deepened their roots in North Africa since the invasion of Iraq four years ago.
To stanch the flow, U.S. intelligence and military officials have tried to trace the fighters’ steps. On the basis of DNA evidence recovered from the scenes of suicide attacks, as well as other clues, officials have confirmed that at least two bombers came from Tetouan, a city of more than 320,000 across the Strait of Gibraltar from southern Spain.
One of them, Abdelmonaim el-Amrani, a 22-year-old laborer, abandoned his wife and infant child in Tetouan to go to Iraq. On March 6, 2006, just before sunset, he drove a red Volkswagen Passat stuffed with explosives into a funeral tent in a village near Baqubah, Iraq, according to witnesses. Six people were reported killed and 27 injured. It was months before Amrani’s family in Tetouan learned of his fate from Moroccan police.
Foreign fighters in Iraq account for only a small percentage of the combatants attacking U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies. U.S. military officials and independent analysts peg the number at no more than a few thousand. But as the war drags on, it continues to serve as a powerful rallying tool for radical Islamic networks around the world that have developed recruiting pipelines as far afield as Europe and Southeast Asia.