Morocco probes Al-Qaeda link to Marrakesh blast

April 30, 2011 - 0:0

MARRAKESH, Morocco (AFP)— The Al-Qaeda terror network is among the suspects in connection with a bomb attack that killed 16 in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, the government said Friday.

Communications Minister Khalid Naciri said that investigators would pursue all leads including possible links to Al-Qaeda which operates a North African offshoot which is active in the region.
“All leads will be investigated, including Al Qaeda,” he said. “The investigation continues to find the perpetrators, but for the moment I am not prepared to point the finger.”
Fourteen people, most of them foreigners, died Thursday when a suspected suicide bomb exploded at a crowded tourist cafe in Djemaa el-Fna, the main square of Marrakesh.
The blast was condemned as a terrorist attack by the Moroccan government, the United States and France and a Moroccan official said it may have been the work of a suicide bomber.
Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui said the 14 who died Thursday included 11 foreigners. No nationalities were given for the two fatalities Friday.
Authorities in France said at lest six of the dead were French.
Rabat, Washington and Paris condemned what they said was a “terrorist” attack on the cafe, a favorite haunt for foreign visitors to the touristic city about 350 kilometers (220 miles) south of the capital.
Al-Qaeda's regional offshoot, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is active in countries in the region, notably carrying out a serious of kidnappings for ransom in recent years. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who spoke to Morocco's King Mohammed IV on the telephone Thursday, said the bombing was “heinous, cruel and cowardly.”
Witnesses said the explosion happened on the terrace of the popular Argana cafe, whose facade and first floor were severely damaged, with tables and chairs strewn around the terrace.
The latest attack was the deadliest in the North African monarchy since 33 people were killed by 12 suicide bombers in Casablanca in 2003. An attempted attack in 2007 was thwarted and one of three would-be bombers killed.
Morocco, a country of 32 million people whose economy relies heavily on tourism, has largely been spared the pro-change revolts that have swept the Arab world since the end of last year.