Terror Strikes Again, 40 Killed In Suicide Blasts In Morocco

Casablanca, May 17: | Updated: May 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
At least 40 people were killed and 100 wounded in suicide bomb attacks in Moroccos biggest city Casablanca, diplomatic sources said, hours after the US said al-Qaeda is poised to strike again.

A Jewish centre and a Spanish club were among the targets of Friday nights second major attack within a week on an Arab state with historically close ties to the US, following multiple suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia.International terrorism struck Casablanca tonight, Moroccan interior minister al Mustapha Sahel was quoted as saying by 2M Television early Saturday.

Suicide bombers carried out five attacks and as many as 10 of the dead may have been assailants, he was quoted as saying by the official Map News Agency. The blasts came hours after US President Bush warned of killers on the loose as alerts spread around the world after Mondays bombings in the Saudi capital Riyadh, which killed 34 people including eight Americans.

Casablanca, on the Atlantic coast about 95km southwest of the capital Rabat, has an official population of 3 million but may sprawl to nearly double that, locals say.

Home to one of the worlds biggest mosques and immortalised in the 1942 Hollywood film of the same name, it retains little of its old Oriental charm. Millions of young migrants from rural poverty struggle to make their way in teeming suburbs that have become recruiting grounds for radical Islamic militants. It is certainly a wake-up call to many that the war on terror continues, Bush told reporters.

As with the Riyadh assault, Osama bin Ladens al-Qaeda is the top suspect. A US official said it is plausible to suggest that al-Qaeda, which Washington blames for the 9/11 attacks, is behind the latest strikes.

There is confusion over the sites targeted in Casablanca and over the number of explosions, at around 0100 hrs local time (0330 hrs IST) on Friday. Some targets had Jewish connections and one was linked to Spain, which strongly backed the US invasion of Iraq.

The doorman, poor thing, they cut his head off, like this, with a big knife.

Then they left one, two bombs. And there were Spaniards. I saw the doormans chair it was covered in blood, the secretary of the Casa de Espana Spanish social club told Spains state radio.