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Binladen triggers morocco bombings { May 18 2003 }

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Sunday, May 18, 2003 Back The Halifax Herald Limited

Bin Laden triggered bombings in tape

By The Sunday Times

Casablanca - Osama bin Laden singled out Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as targets for "martyrdom operations" in a chilling audio tape issued only three months before the latest string of bombings.

All three countries were struck by terrorist attacks last week, adding to fears that the al-Qaida leader may have ordered a new wave of bombings across the world.

As the death toll in Friday's Casablanca suicide attacks rose to 41, it emerged that Morocco was one of six countries identified by bin Laden as "ready for liberation" in a section of the tape calling for "martyrdom operations" by Islamic extremists.

"True Muslims should act, incite and mobilize the nation in such great events . . . in order to break free from the slavery of these tyrannic and apostate regimes enslaved by America," he said. "Among regions ready for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, the country of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia), Yemen and Pakistan."

The warning received scant attention from western intelligence agencies, which at the time were focused primarily on preparing for the war on Iraq.

But last Monday Islamic extremists, with suspected links to al-Qaida, carried out suicide attacks against expatriate housing compounds in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, killing 34 people, including eight Americans.

A series of explosions rocked 21 petrol stations in Pakistan three days later.

In the latest attack, five bombs, carried by at least 10 suicide terrorists, exploded simultaneously in Casablanca late on Friday night, killing over 40 and injuring about 100, most of whom were locals.

The bombers attacked a Spanish social club, a Jewish community centre and cemetery, the Belgian consulate and the Safir hotel.

The blasts came during the popular evening "promenade time" when many Moroccans were on the streets. The bombs caused carnage with decapitated bodies and wrecked cars littering the streets.

At least 18 people are thought to have died at the Casa de Espana social club.

Lamia Haffi, an employee, said three attackers had entered the building after slitting the throat of a security guard. Seconds later the club was ripped apart by either one or two blasts among the 100 diners.

Aboubakr Jamai, a Moroccan journalist, described the scene at the club, which is popular with Spaniards and foreign diplomats.

"There are body parts all over the place," he said.

Witnesses said at least one terrorist had blown himself up with grenades strapped to his belt.

As many as 10 of those killed in the attacks may have been the bombers, the Moroccan interior minister said Saturday. Three Moroccans, including one suspected suicide bomber, were arrested.

The blasts in Morocco and Saudi Arabia were being seen in Washington on Saturday as an ominous sign that al-Qaida may either have revived in a different form, or may be inspiring a new generation of Islamic radicals.

The latest bombings followed a series of claims by intelligence officials that al-Qaida has opened new training camps in east Africa.

A senior American official claimed that at least one camp had been opened in Sudan.

The renewed terrorist activity has obliged American officials to revise their previous optimism that al-Qaida's failure to respond to the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a sign that the group was dying.

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