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Friday, April 29, 2011

Deadly blast devastates Marrakesh cafe

Deadly blast devastates Marrakesh cafe


Authorities suspect blast which killed at least 15 in Moroccan city's main square was the work of a suicide bomber.

April 28, 2011

An explosion in a busy cafe in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh has killed at least 15 people and wounded several others, according to local officials.

Moroccan officials said on Thursday that they suspect the attack at Argana cafe in the city's main Jamaa el-Fna square was the work of a suicide bomber.

"According to the information I have, it could have been perpetrated by a suicide bomber," an official in the regional governor's office told the AFP news agency.

"We found nails in one of the bodies," added the official, who was in a hospital where some of the bodies were taken.

Moroccan television, quoting interior ministry officials, said 20 people were also injured and said foreigners were among the victims. The state-run 2M channel reported that the dead comprised six French nationals, five Moroccans and four foreigners whose nationality it did not give, .

Rescuers were dispatched to the scene and an investigation was opened to provide details on the blast.

An official from the ministry said the blast appeared to be a terror attack, though the ministry had said earlier in the day, in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency, that "early evidence collected at the site (of the explosion) indicates that it was a criminal act".

France condemned the blast as being "cruel and cowardly" and confirmed there were French casualties.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, learnt "with consternation of the terrorist attack," his office said in a statement.

"He condemns with the greatest firmness this odious, cruel and cowardly act that has caused many casualties, including French citizens," it said.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, slammed "this barbaric terrorist attack that nothing can justify", calling in a statement for "all light to be shed on this revolting crime, for those responsible to be found, tried and punished".

Asked whether there was any current threat against French citizens in its former North African protectorate, Henri Guaino, Sarkozy's advisor, said France "had nothing in particular to fear in Morocco at the moment".

"Terrorism is something that we always fear... that reminds us to be extremely vigilant against this terrifying phenomenon," Guaino told RTL radio.

The Argana cafe is a popular spot with tourists and ranks 21 on the Lonely Planet’s online list of 'things to do in Marrakesh'.

"One of the few cafes where you'll compete with locals for elbow room and a spectacular view of the [Jamaa el-Fna] at sunset, when the restaurant stalls set up shop and the belly dancers begin to wriggle," the travel guide writes.

If confirmed as a terror attack, Thursday's blast in Morocco would be the fourth such attack since 2003 when suicide bombers set off at least five explosions in Casablanca, killing 45 people, including 13 bombers.

In 2007, a series of suicide attacks took place in Casablanca between March and April, including an attack on the US diplomatic offices on April 14.

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