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Minister says no alqaeda link { May 19 2003 }

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No Al Qaeda Link to Morocco Bombings-Minister

Monday, May 19, 2003; 7:56 PM

By Gilles Trequesser

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco said on Monday no link had yet been established between al Qaeda and last week's suicide bombings in Casablanca that killed 41 people, including the 13 attackers.

Justice Minister Mohamed Bouzoubaa said: "No foreigner was linked to these suicide and criminal operations...We have not made any link with any foreign state or foreign organisation."

He told Reuters Television the 13 suicide bombers came from Casablanca's impoverished Sidi Moumen neighborhood.

Five blasts on Friday targeted Jewish and Spanish sites in Casablanca. The dead included three French nationals, three Spaniards and an Italian.

Bouzoubaa had earlier pointed to the possible involvement of a little-known Islamist group, Assirat al Moustaquim (The Righteous Path).

Morocco was the Muslim country listed as "most eligible for liberation" in a tape believed to be from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The tape, released in February, said any Arab leader who supported America would be "an apostate whose blood should be spilled." Morocco is a staunch ally of the United States.

"We took bin Laden's threats seriously," Bouzoubaa said, "but what happened was committed by a group probably not known (to us), a group of very young people who were certainly misled by some people we're trying to identify."

"Was it because of bin Laden's statement or by chance this happened? The investigation will tell us if there is a link with bin Laden's organisation."


The Casablanca bombings followed the killing of at least 34 people last week in suicide attacks against Westerners in Saudi Arabia and prompted fresh warnings from President Bush that al Qaeda remained a threat.

Bush spoke by telephone with Morocco's King Mohammed on Monday afternoon, The White House said. He expressed his condolences to the king for the deaths of Moroccan citizens and commended him on his leadership in the days following the bombings, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said.

A newspaper reported that Moroccan security services had arrested a chemistry graduate after finding bomb-making materials in a suspected hideout of the suicide bombers.

The Arabic daily Al Ahdath al Maghribia said an explosive device had also been found in the house in Casablanca's Massira district said to have been used by the attackers.

Moroccan press reports said six of the 13 suicide bombers had been identified and were aged from 18 to 24.

The Assabah daily quoted the head of the forensic unit at Casablanca's main hospital as saying the dead bombers were slightly built, pale and appeared to have shaved their beards hours before launching the attacks.

"Three of them bore a striking resemblance, suggesting they were brothers," said Arabic paper Al Ittihad al Ishtiraki.

The daily al Ahdath al Maghribia, known to have access to security sources, said security services were also interrogating at least two Egyptians and a Saudi in Casablanca and that the group that led the attacks had received orders from abroad.

Tangiers authorities were reported to have arrested a French national of Afghan descent and a Tunisian on Saturday as they tried to leave the country at Tangiers port, having arrived in Morocco about a week ago at Casablanca's international airport.

The initial investigation showed one of the suspects was in Casablanca at the time of the attacks, the other was in Tangiers, the daily said.

Moroccan Communications Minister Nabil Benabdellah said foreign security services were helping with the investigation.

Assirat al Moustaquim surfaced last year after some of its members stoned a man to death in Sidi Moumen. Until now, the group has been known in Morocco only for trying to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law. (Additional reporting by Eileen Byrne and Souhail Karam)

2003 Reuters

40 dead morocco bombings { May 18 2003 }
Binladen triggers bombings { May 18 2003 }
Minister says no alqaeda link { May 19 2003 }
Possible alqaeda link morocco { May 16 2003 }
Sabbath jews casablanca survived { May 18 2003 }

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