2003 Casablanca bombings
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|2003 Casablanca bombings|
|Date||May 16, 2003|
|Target||Western and Jewish targets in the bustling tourist city|
|Attack type||suicide attack|
|Injured (non-fatal)||More than 100|
|Perpetrators||Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Saad Bin Laden and terrorist group Salafia Jihadia|
The 2003 Casablanca bombings were a series of suicide bombings on May 16, 2003, in Casablanca, Morocco. The attacks were the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country's history. 45 people were killed as a result of these attacks (12 suicide-bombers and 33 victims). The suicide bombers came from the shanty towns of Sidi Moumen, a poor suburb of Casablanca, and were from the Salafia Jihadia group.
The 14 bombers, most between 20 and 23 years old, bombed several places on the night of May the 16th. In the deadliest attack, bombers wearing explosives knifed a guard at the "Casa de España" restaurant, a Spanish-owned eatery in the city. They blew themselves up inside the building, killing 20 people, many of them dining and playing bingo.
The five-star Hotel Farah was bombed next, killing a guard and a porter. Another bomber killed three passersby as he attempted to bomb a Jewish cemetery. He was 150 yards (140 m) away from the cemetery and likely lost, so he blew up by a fountain. Two additional bombers attacked a Jewish community center, but killed no one because the building was closed and empty. It would have been packed the next day.
In all, 12 bombers died, along with 33 civilians. Two bombers were arrested before they could carry out attacks. More than 100 people were injured. Eight of the dead were Europeans (three Spanish among them) and the rest were Moroccan.
A large demonstration was organized through the streets of Casablanca. Tens of thousands marched, carrying banners such as "Say No to Terrorism". They shouted "Down with Hate" and "United against Terrorism".
Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, toured the bombing sites and was cheered by crowds of people. Moroccan authorities said in May 2004 that they had arrested 2,000 people in connection with the attacks, and began to put them on trial.
World leaders condemned the attacks, coming on the heels of the Riyadh compound bombings. In response to that attack and the Casablanca attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the terror threat level to Orange.
Salafia Jihadia, an offshoot of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and believed to have al-Qaeda links, is suspected of sending out the bombers. On March 19, 2004, Belgian police arrested a suspect wanted by the Moroccan government in connection with the bombings. In December 2004, a man named Hasan al-Haski, charged in the 2004 Madrid bombings, was questioned over his links to the Casablanca bombings and was believed to have helped plan them.
A number of Islamic extremists were subsequently convicted of the bombings. In April 2008 nine of the prisoners tunneled their way out of prison. Abderrahim Mahtade, who represents a prisoners’ advocacy group, said the fugitives had escaped from the Kenitra prison, north of Rabat, after dawn prayers. He said one of the nine had been sentenced to death, six to life imprisonment and two to 20 years.
Hassan al-Kattani, having been convicted of inspiring the attacks in 2003, was pardoned in 2011 after several hunger strikes and criticisms from human rights groups which alleged that Kattani was innocent.
- "9 Imprisoned For Casablanca Blasts Escape". The New York Times. Agence France-Presse. 8 April 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- "washingtonpost.com: Madrid Probe Turns to Islamic Cell in Morocco". The Washington Post.
- "Report: 5 others Moroccans sought in Spain bombing". USA Today. 16 March 2004.
- Filkins, Dexter; Burns, John F. (11 June 2006). "At Site of Attack on Zarqawi, All That's Left Are Questions". The New York Times.
- France-Presse, Agence (8 April 2008). "Morocco: 9 Imprisoned for Casablanca Blasts Escape". The New York Times.
- Farah, Douglas; Priest, Dana (14 October 2003). "Bin Laden Son Plays Key Role in Al Qaeda". The Washington Post.
- Morocco king pardons jailed Islamist leaders at Morocco World News. Reuters reporting in Rabat, February 5th, 2012.
- Mohamed Saadouni, Morocco pursues salafist reconciliation for Magharebia. May 18, 2012.
- Analysis: Casablanca bombings (PDF)
- ERRI Briefing with description of attack
- Terror blasts rock Casablanca – BBC
- Moroccans march against terror - BBC