Explosions rock Moroccan city

Authorities say a police officer was killed and a young child also injured in the raid.


The explosions came weeks after the bombing of an Internet cafe in the Moroccan city, as police moved on a group of suspects wanted in connection with the blast.

Bloody afternoon

The violence began when police, acting on a tip, surrounded a four-storey apartment building in the working-class Hay Farah neighbourhood of Casablanca where the suspects were holed up.

One of the bombers who killed himself, Ayyoub Raydi, was the brother of the cafe bomber, Abdelfettah Raydi, an Interior Ministry official said. The official asked that he not be named, citing ministry policy.

After police surrounded the building before dawn today, one of the suspects fled to the roof, where he blew himself up, said a police official on the scene who refused to give his name. Morocco's official MAP news agency identified that bomber as Mohamed Rachidi.

A second man appeared to be on the verge of also detonating explosives, fumbling with his clothes, when a police sniper shot him, officials said. The suspect later died of his wounds. He was identified by police as Mohamed Mentala. Mentala was carrying 4kg of explosives, the Interior Ministry official said.

Mentala and Rachidi had both been sought by police for alleged involvement in the 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca, the Interior Ministry official said. MAP said Rachidi, 37, was part of a terrorist cell involved in the killing of a Casablanca police official in 2003.

Ayyoub Raydi blew himself up in the afternoon as police were searching the neighbourhood for him, officials said. A police officer was killed and another seriously injured in that blast, the Interior Ministry official said. A 7-year-old boy was hospitalised with light injuries, the official said.

Police cordoned off the area, erecting metal barriers to keep thousands of onlookers back.

In the evening, a fourth suspect detonated his explosives in the middle of a boulevard, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The MAP news agency said the blast injured five people. It gave no details.

"We all thought that the guy had gone the other way – and then Kerblam! – there was this explosion behind us," said a shopkeeper who gave his name only as Saad. "This is horrible. There's no trust here anymore, because they (the bombers) can get so close to you."

Wider terror plot

Police investigations into the March 11 cafe bombing led police to a wider suspected plot to attack the port in Casablanca — Morocco's largest city — as well as police stations and tourist sites in Morocco.

In that blast, bomber Abdelfettah Raydi detonated his charge when the cybercafe's owner caught him surfing jihadist Web sites. He was killed and four others were injured.

Authorities say the subsequent investigation uncovered a larger plot that involved at least 30 people. The group had amassed dozens of kilograms of homemade explosives in a Casablanca apartment.

Police have so far arrested 31 suspects, who have been questioned by judges in preliminary court hearings. Raydi and many other suspects were among some 2,000 arrested after the 2003 bombings, but were later released from prison under a royal pardon.

Moroccan authorities have said they do not believe Raydi's group had links to international terrorist networks.

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