Thursday, May 5, 2011

[Morocco] King Mohammed VI visits site of Marrakesh bombing

Morocco's King Mohammed VI flew into Marrakesh on Saturday to visit survivors of a devastating bombing that killed 16 people, and to see the site of the attack itself.
Amid tight security, King Mohammed visited the popular Argana cafe in the city's main Djemaa el-Fna square where the bomb went off Thursday, and where floral tributes now lie scattered outside the building's wrecked facade.
Several hundred people, mainly women and children stood nearby, waving Moroccan flags and photos of the king. Several of them shouted: "Long live the King!"
The king spoke briefly to investigators still working at the site of the bombing and also shook hands with some members of the crowd. From there, the monarch went on to Ibn-Tofail hospital and a military hospital in the city to visit some of those injured in the blast, the deadliest here since the 2003 Casablanca attacks, which killed 33 people.
Those still being treated in the hospitals include three Moroccans, seven French and two Dutch patients, the country's Map news agency reported. Others among the 25 injured had already left hospital, a medical source told AFP.
A French diplomatic source said two French citizens injured in the blast had been flown home.
Police and security officers were out in force in the square and also stepped up their presence at the Ibn-Tofail hospital.
Experts from the United States and Europe have joined Moroccan investigators in the hunt for those behind the bombing, the interior ministry said Saturday.
"American, French and Spanish experts are taking part in the inquiry," the ministry official said.
"It is an international incident as many foreigners have died," he added.
Thanks to two Dutch tourists they have a photofit portrait of the suspected bomber: a young, long-haired clean-shaven Arab the couple saw with two large bags in the cafe shortly before the blast.
On Friday, Interior Minister Taeb Cherkaoui said 13 of the 16 people killed in the attack had been identified: seven French nationals, two Canadians, two Moroccans, a Dutch national and a British national.
A 10-year-old French girl was among the victims, said Marie-Francoise Auger, the mayor of her home town Herlies, near Lille, in northern France. Her father was also seriously wounded, she added.
The British victim was identified as Peter Moss, 59, a father of two and a writer from London, according to the Jewish Chronicle newspaper.
"The way in which this act was carried out reminds us of the style normally used by the Al-Qaeda organisation," Cherkaoui said on Friday.
The device had been triggered by remote control and the bomb had been made up of nitrate and ammonium and two TATP explosives, as well as nails, he said.
Triacetone triperoxyde, or TATP, is relatively easy to make and has surfaced in a number of recent investigations into attacks, including the July 2005 London bombings that killed 56 people and injured another 700.
A video posted on the Internet three days before the bombing and attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) included a threat to attack Morocco.
It showed five young men, armed, dressed in desert fatigues, their faces covered by the Arab headdress, or shemagh. AQIM has been active in countries in the region, notably carrying out a series of kidnappings for ransom.
In a statement to parliament Friday, Cherkaoui promised the attack would not stop the country's pursuit of democracy and respect for human rights.
New York-based Human Rights Watch also called on Morocco's authorities to pursue the perpretators while heeding "the king's directive to do so in accordance with the law".
Moroccan authorities had commited "grave abuses" including "arbitrary arrest and detention, torture during interrogations, forced confessions, and convictions after unfair trials" during past investigations, said the group.
After three demonstrations by pro-democracy campaigners earlier this year, the Moroccan monarch announced major political changes including greater judicial independence. In mid-April, he pardoned political prisoners, including Islamists.
Thursday's attack was the deadliest in Morocco since 33 people were killed by 12 suicide bombers in Casablanca in 2003.