Moroccan man with explosives blown up, 3 wounded

Published: Monday, March 12, 2007, 13:02 [IST]
 

RABAT, Mar 12 (Reuters) A Moroccan man carrying explosives under his clothes was blown up and three other people were wounded at an Internet cafe in Casablanca overnight, government security officials said.

The officials said they were investigating whether it was a militant suicide bombing. The blast occurred in the commercial capital's Sidi Moumen slum, home to 13 suicide bombers who killed 32 people in Casablanca in 2003.

The man had a dispute with the Internet cafe's owner and the explosion occurred as the two men were coming to blows, the officials said.

''The man used to come to view jihadist Web sites and the dispute was prompted by the Internet cafe owner's decision to prevent him this time from viewing such propaganda material,'' said one official, asking not to be identified.

Another man at the scene who attempted to flee was arrested by police and was being questioned.

''We do not know whether the explosion was a suicide bombing or the explosive device went off inadvertently during the dispute,'' said the official.

''The investigation is continuing and we hope the arrested man will talk and clarify more the matter, including whether the man with the explosives planned a bomb attack elsewhere.'' HIGH ALERT Morocco is on high alert after a string of bomb attacks last month in neighbouring Algeria. Officials have said they had information about an Al Qaeda plot to attack Morocco but lacked details.

Security forces cordoned off the area as police sifted through the blast scene for clues, witnesses said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for any attack in Casablanca.

Governments in North Africa fear violence may spill over from Algeria after the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat renamed itself Al Qaeda organisation in the Islamic Maghreb with the aim of fusing similar Islamist groups groups together.

Last week, security sources said police had arrested the head of the military wing of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (MICG).

Police suspect Saad Houssaini, 38, of involvement in the 2003 Casablanca bombings and also in the 2004 train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people.

Security experts believe the MICG is one of the small militant factions to have joined the al Qaeda group.

Security sources said police were hunting for suspected al Qaeda members who may have infiltrated from Algeria.

Morocco has backed the US-led war against terrorism launched after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

REUTERS SB PM1026


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