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BOMB IN MARRAKESH KILLED 16

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A suicide bomber, on Thursday 04/28/2011, in the main square in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh has killed at least 16 people and injured 20. The explosion ripped through the Argana cafe in Djemaa el-Fna square, a popular tourist destination, officials said. Djemaa el-Fna square is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is popular with foreign tourists, particularly Europeans.

The interior ministry said evidence now pointed to a bomb attack after initial reports suggested a gas explosion.

Morocco has seen two months of protests demanding that King Mohammed VI give up some of his powers, amid a tide of uprisings across the region.

Moroccan government spokesman Khalid Naciri told French television that Thursday’s casualties involved a number of nationalities but he would not confirm any as yet.

A medical source told AFP news agency that 11 of the dead were foreigners, including five women, but this has not been independently confirmed. Analysts say the blast could have a serious effect on Morocco’s important tourism sector.

* Morroco’s interior minister Taieb Cherkaoui’s said on Friday, as he briefed lawmakers in Rabat on Thursday’s blast at the Argana café, that the bomb was set off “from a distance”. He added: “Initial inquiries have shown that an explosive product made up of TTP explosives, and also with nails,” AFP reported.  (Triacetone Triperoxide – TTP is a homemade highly unstable but effective explosive commonly used by the Palestinians in their terror campaign against Israel).   .

The French interior minister said at least six of the dead were French. British travel writer Peter Moss was also among those killed, along with two Canadians, an Israeli, one Dutch national and two Moroccans.

Two Marrakesh residents – who were near the cafe in the Djemaa el-Fna square – earlier told Reuters the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber. No group has so far said it carried out the attack in the major tourist spot.  However, a video attributed to MAGHREB al-Qaeda (AQIN), seen posted on the internet on 04/25/2011, included a threat to Morocco three days before the Marrakesh blast, according to the AFP news agency (see – Arlit 09.21.10).

* The Moroccan police arrested, on Thursday 05/05/2011, 3 suspects. Interior Ministry sources said the chief suspect was “well-versed in Jihadi ideology and shows loyalty to al Qaeda”, who had previously tried to fight alongside Islamist fighters in Chechnya and Iraq.

*Two of the suspects, the ringleader Adil Al-Othmani (PIC) and his chief accomplice Hakim Dah were sentenced, on 10/28/2011, to death. Their verdict was confirmed by the Morrocan High Court on Wednesday 03/07/2012.

The High Court also increased the jail sentences against six of the other men convicted at the original trial in 10/2011 from six to 10 years and confirmed a two-year sentence against a ninth man.

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