May 17, 2003 - The Guardian: Bombs shake Morocco

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By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, May 17, 2003 - 6:21 pm: Edit Post

Bombs shake Morocco

Read and comment on this story from The Guardian on bombs that exploded in Morocco at a luxury business hotel, a Jewish community centre, a Spanish cultural centre and the Belgian consulate. The Peace Corps suspended its volunteer operations in Morocco on April 3, 2003, and has sent all Peace Corps volunteers back to the US for the duration of the hostilities. Read the story at:

Dozens killed by Morocco bombs*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Dozens killed by Morocco bombs

Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Saturday May 17, 2003
The Guardian

At least 20 people were killed last night when four blasts shook the Moroccan city of Casablanca. The bombs exploded at a luxury business hotel, a Jewish community centre, a Spanish cultural centre and the Belgian consulate.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing dead bodies outside one of the targets, the Hotel Safir in the city centre, following the blast at just after 10pm local time.

There were no official reports of exactly how many people had been killed or injured, but one witness said that at least eight people were dead at the Casa de Espana, a Spanish cultural centre.

Ramon Iribarren, the spokesman for the Spanish embassy in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, said the final death toll was likely to be much higher than 20 people.

"We believe there are a minimum of 20 dead in the Casa de Espana alone," he told the Guardian last night. "Our consul has not been able to go inside but there are said to be bodies all over the place. It is a terrible, terrible scene."

Mr Iribarren said there were reports of three suicide bombers walking into the busy restaurant at the private club, which is frequented by Spaniards, other Europeans and Moroccans.

He said there was general confusion in Casablanca with some reports saying that suicide bombers had also walked into the Hotel Safir and others saying that car bombs had been used in the explosions.

Three suspects were arrested, according to Moroccan media reports.

"The front of the Hotel Safir is all damaged. I saw a burned-out red car in front of the hotel. I also saw what looked like three dead bodies lying under plastic sheets," Ahmed Djermouni, a manager at the nearby United Seaman's Service told the Guardian by telephone last night.

"There are many ambulances there. We heard the bombs. It must be like those bombings in London," said Mr Djermouni, who was evacuating the centre where lorry drivers and sailors from Britain and other countries stay.

The Casablanca explosions came only hours after the Foreign Office upgraded its travel advice to warn of a "clear terrorist threat" in six more east African countries four days after suicide bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia and a warning on Kenya.

Aboubakr Jammai, a witness to the Casablanca bombings, told the BBC that two of the explosions were car bombs.

A US state department official said: "The information we have is that there were four car bombings and that no US government facility was targeted."

Mr Jammai said the city's largest hospital was receiving a large number of casualties.

"We have information that there are many dead. There are body parts all over the place," he said. "In the biggest hospital of Casablanca, people keep arriving, many people injured and burned. At least eight people have been killed in one bombing."

Another of the scenes of devastation was outside the Israelite Alliance Circle. Morocco has a Jewish population of about 6,000-7,000, mainly based in Casablanca.

Moroccan journalists at the scene said the car bomb near the Belgian consulate may have been aimed at a nearby Jewish restaurant.

A spokesman for the Belgian foreign ministry, Didier Seeuws, told the Belgian news agency Belga that the consulate was heavily damaged. He said two policemen outside the building were killed and a security guard was hospitalised.

Foreign minister Louis Michel sent a message of condolences to the Moroccan government denouncing all forms of terrorism.

Morocco's interior minister was due to address the country be television last night to inform people of the attacks. He confirmed that they happened at around the same time, at 10pm local time in Casablanca. He said there had also been unconfirmed reports of grenades being thrown at some places.

Morocco recently jailed three Saudi members of al-Qaida who had been plotting attacks on American and British shipping in the Straits of Gibraltar. The same three men had allegedly also considered hitting civilian targets in Moroccan cities.

The US state department issued its most recent public announcement on the terrorism threat in North Africa last week, warning of the "continuing threat of anti-American violence" there.

The last specific advice it gave on Morocco was updated on April 3. "The potential for violence against US interests and citizens as a result of military action in Iraq, and for transnational terrorism, remains high in Morocco and in other countries in the region," read its announcement then, which was not given the higher-priority label of a "warning".

"As a result of the increased potential threat to US citizens and interests overseas, the US Peace Corps suspended its volunteer operations in Morocco on April 3, 2003, and has sent all Peace Corps volunteers back to the US for the duration of the hostilities," the department noted.

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