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Terrorism & Security

Morocco bombing bears hallmark of Al Qaeda group

Thursday's bombing in a popular Morocco tourist spot killed at least 16, and could give Moroccan leaders reason to halt reform efforts instigated by prodemocracy protests.

By Correspondent / April 29, 2011

A police officer stands outside a cordon off building after an explosion ripped through a cafe popular among foreign tourists in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, April, 28, killing and wounding people in what the government called a suspected criminal act.

Tarik Najmaoui/AP

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The death toll has risen to 16 in a Thursday bomb attack at a popular tourist spot in Marrakesh, Morocco. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, security experts told Reuters that it bore similarities to previous attacks by Islamic militants.

At least 10 of those killed in the Argana cafe overlooking the city's Djemma el-Fna Square were foreigners, according to the BBC. It is the first suicide attack since 2003, when suicide bombers killed 45 people, including themselves, in Casablanca. The square is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the top visitor spots in a country that relies heavily on tourism revenue – according to Reuters, it is the country's second largest industry, after agriculture.

"You can't find a more emblematic target than Jamaa-el-Fnaa square," a restaurant owner told the Guardian. "With this attack and amid the worrying unrest in the region, tourism will hit the doldrums."

The North African Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is active in neighboring Algeria, but Morocco has been largely quiet since the 2003 attacks in Casablanca. A chief concern of the Moroccan government is that AQIM will eventually expand beyond Algeria and the Sahara desert and establish a base in Morocco, which it has so far failed to do, Reuters reports.

Government spokesman Khalid Naciri was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that Moroccan security regularly halts terrorist plots and discovers terrorist cells.

Moroccan authorities have rounded up thousands of purported terror suspects in recent years and while they "regularly discover terrorist cells ... nothing led us to foresee an act of this magnitude," Mr. Naciri said.

"Morocco has an international image of welcome, hospitality and tourism," he said "An act of this magnitude will leave its mark."

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