Sixteen killed in Marrakech, Morocco bomb blast

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jemaa el-Fnaa square, location of the café
Image: AlexandrDmitri.

At least sixteen people are reported killed in a terrorist bombing in the city of Marrakech, Morocco. The bombing occurred in the busy Argana café before lunch time, Thursday. The café, located in the popular Jemaa el-Fnaa square, is within what is known as the old city. The square, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the country's top tourist attractions, draws many foreign visitors.

Early reports blamed a gas can catching fire. Witness reports indicate the blast destroyed the entire second floor of the café, blasting off the terrace and roof demolishing the front of the building.

Photographer Tarek Bozid reported, "Everything was covered in blood. The scene was horrifying. Tables were broken and glass was shattered."

Marrakech highlighted on a map of Morroco.

Ten of the victims were foreign, including six French nationals and one Briton. Half of the dead are reported to be women; and, at least 20 other people were critically wounded including a number foreigners. Two Swiss nationals, two Russians, two Tunisians and two Dutch tourists are reported to be amongst those injured.

Although the blast was at first considered an accident, the Interior Ministry confirmed it was an intentional act. "Analysis of the early evidence collected at the site of the blast confirms the theory of an attack," he said in a statement issued through the official Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) news agency.

Medics said nails, often used in suicide bombs, were found in the bodies of most victims.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed his outrage, considering it to be "heinous, cruel and cowardly". The act has been condemned by leaders internationally. French foreign minister Alain Juppe stated he is unaware of any particular threat to France in Morroco, once a French protectorate.

This is the first major attack on Morocco since the 2003 Casablanca bombings, which killed 45 and injured more than 100.