Deadly bombing hits tourist site in Morocco


Footage from the aftermath of a terrorist attack at a cafe in Marrakech, Morocco, that killed 15 people.

Fifteen people, including 10 foreigners, were killed in a bombing at a cafe frequented by tourists in the city of Marrakech in Morocco earlier today. The attack is thought to have been carried out by Islamic terrorist groups based in the North African country.

The blast took place at the Argana cafe in the Jamaa el Fnaa square in central Marrakech, a crowded part of the city where foreigners are known to congregate. Six Frenchmen and four other foreigners, along with five Moroccans, were reported to have been killed in the blast. Seven foreigners were among the more than 20 people wounded.

Two witnesses told Reuters that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber; the nature of the attack has not been confirmed, however. One witness inside the cafe who survived told Al Arabiya that "an individual entered, ordered an orange juice and a few minutes later blew himself up." Another witness claimed that a man left a suitcase bomb at the cafe, which was detonated.

Moroccan officials said an "analysis of the early evidence collected at the site of the blast that occurred on Thursday at a cafe in Marrakesh confirms the theory of an attack," Reuters reported. Police said nails, which are often used in suicide bombs, were found lodged in the body of a victim.

Today's terrorist attack is the worst in the country since the May 16, 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca that killed 33 people. In those attacks, a total of 12 suicide bombers detonated vests at several locations: the Israeli Alliance Club, a Jewish cemetery, the Spanish club, the Belgian consulate, and a five-star hotel frequented by foreigners.

In 2007, Islamic terrorists also carried out three failed suicide attacks in Casablanca: the first on March 14, the next on April 10, and third the following day. On March 14, a suicide bomber detonated his vest after a dispute with the owner of an Internet café. The bomber killed only himself and wounded an accomplice and three others. On April 10, three suicide bombers detonated their vests, and a fourth was shot and killed during police raids. And on April 11, a pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests near the US consulate and the US cultural center, wounding only one person.

The radical, al Qaeda-linked terror group known as the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group and its offshoot, the Salafia Jihadia, have been implicated in the bombings. Suicide bombers from the Salafia Jihadia, aided by the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group, are known to have carried out the 2003 attacks in Casablanca.

Salafia Jihadia has also been linked to the March 11, 2004 suicide attacks on trains in Madrid, Spain, that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800.

The Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group seeks to overthrow the Moroccan monarchy and establish an Islamic state. Salafia Jihadia's goals are broader; the group seeks to overthrow Arab regimes in North Africa and establish a regional emirate. Salafia Jihadia has also been linked to al Qaeda in Iraq and its former leader, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Both the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group and Salafia Jihadia have ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa.

Moroccan security forces have waged a relentless campaign against the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group and Salafia Jihadia, with routine raids targeting individual cells throughout the country [see Today In archives for Morocco for a list of raids since September 2006.] In the latest raid, in early January 2011, Moroccan security forces arrested 27 people accused of plotting to attack security forces and rob banks. The men belonged to a terrorist cell commanded by an al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operative tasked with setting up a base in the Western Sahara.

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READER COMMENTS: "Deadly bombing hits tourist site in Morocco"

Posted by YZ at April 28, 2011 9:44 PM ET:

I remember that place from Bizzare Foods on the Travel Channel.

Posted by BullsEye at April 29, 2011 8:17 AM ET:

As bad as the attacks is, I actually hope it was Al-Qaeda linked terrorists, whether salafists or AQIM.

Right now, people in the north African part of the Muslim world do NOT want Al Qaeda to come and screw up a golden chance to write their own history.

The people chose democracy long before the Tunisian guy burned himself. That's why they were able to unite. There is nothing that Al Qaeda can do to stop the voting and drive for new governments in the Middle East, and now people like Aulaqi (who is so anti-democracy and voting) are eating their own words, claiming that voting may actually help Al Qaeda's cause.

The ends justify the means for Al Qaeda, just pick your hadeeth, add some Quranic verses and bingo, there's a new fatwa of approval.