First Published: 2007-04-11

Morocco on alert for new suicide attacks

Police inspector killed in third suicide bombing attack in Casablanca’s Hay al Farah district.


Middle East Online

By Mohamed Chakir - CASABLANCA, Morocco

Wave of terror grips Casablanca

Moroccan security forces on Wednesday hunted 10 possible suicide bombers in Casablanca, a day after three suspected militants blew themselves up as they were being chased.

"We are searching in Casablanca for about 10 extremely dangerous terrorists, as they are ready like those yesterday to blow themselves up," a police source said.

On Tuesday, three suicide bombers blew themselves up and a fourth was shot dead as police sought suspects from a March 11 bomb explosion in an Internet cafe.

The first confrontation occurred when police surrounded a house before dawn Tuesday in the el Fida district of the city.

One suspect came out of the house carrying a sword and wearing an explosives belt. He was shot dead by the police.

According to the police version, a second suspect came out onto the balcony of the house and seeing that he was surrounded, blew himself up.

The same afternoon, a police inspector died after a third man blew himself up in the same district. Two other police officers and a child were also hurt.

In the final attack Tuesday, five people were wounded including two police officers as a man blew himself up in the main thoroughfare of the Hay al Farah district.

The bomber headed towards a group of police officers before detonating his charge, said a police source.

A police statement identified the man they had shot dead in the morning as Mohamed Mentala, who is wanted in connection with the May 2003 bombings in Casablanca, the worst in Morocco's history, which killed 45 people including 12 suicide bombers and injured dozens.

All four of those who died Tuesday were wanted in connection with the March 11 bomb that exploded in a Casablanca Internet cafe, said police.

In that attack, the bomber, Abdelfettah Raydi, died and his suspected accomplice and three customers were injured. Thirty-one people have already been arrested in the course of that investigation.

Investigators believe that the Internet cafe was not the intended target of the March attack, but was simply where some of the attackers met to maintain contact online.

Investigators have ruled out that the men had links with foreign groups.

"A terrorist group is being formed and funded by Moroccans with the aim of carrying out bombings at Casablanca port and several police stations," a judicial source said.

Investigators say they do not believe the suicide bombers have links with foreign groups.

"A terrorist group is being formed and funded by Moroccans with the aim of carrying out bombings at Casablanca port and several police stations," the judicial source added.

But Mohamed Darif, a specialist on Islamism in Morocco, said: "It is difficult to imagine that this group did not have any foreign links.

"On the contrary, it seems that they apply the order given by Ayman al Zawahri, the number two in Al-Qaeda, to blow yourself up rather than fall into the hands of the police," he added.

Al-Qaeda recently announced that it had set up a cell in north Africa.


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