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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 01:45 GMT 02:45 UK
Eyewitness: Curiosity in Casablanca
By Sebastian Usher
BBC correspondent in Casablanca

The streets of Casablanca on Saturday night, just 24 hours after the series of suicide bomb attacks that left more than 40 people dead, do not seem much more subdued than normal.

A crowd looks at the devastation at the Jewish centre
Crowds have gathered at the sites of the five bombings
The main Avenue des Forces Armees Royales is packed with people - cafes and restaurants are doing good business.

Around the centre, there is no oppressive sense of a major security operation.

But life is not continuing as normal.

As you travel up the main street, you find that one side is closed off, with barriers manned by soldiers.

Plain clothes security men stand with police and soldiers around the big international hotels.

Striking sight

The security becomes tighter further down the main avenue as you arrive at one of the sites targeted in Friday night's attack - the Hotel Safir.

Its main entrance shows the devastation - clustered in the doorway are some of the hotel staff mourning the colleagues they lost.

A doorman in the damaged entrance to the Safir Hotel
Hotels are still open for guests

The hotel itself is not closed though - some guests have left, but others are staying on.

However, it is not the hotel that is the most striking sight here, but the constantly moving mass of people across the street - many of whom have clearly come to see the site of the attack, but stand there as if by chance.

Groups of soldiers do not let them tarry, but tell them to hurry along, as if their rubbernecking might turn into a protest if they are allowed to stay there more than a few moments.

Anger and silence

When asked, the people express their disgust at what happened, but seem uncomfortable at saying more other than to suggest that the attacks were a one-off and do not reflect a wider trend in Morocco.

"C'est fini!", one of the bystanders tells me.

Others do not want to speak about the attacks at all - in one bar, a young man is firmly told to be quiet when he looks like he might be about to open up.

As you walk down the streets of Casablanca, it does not seem to be a city in shock or shaken by fear, but rather one in the grip of curiosity and a kind of suspicion at the world's sudden appetite for gauging its mood.

A woman looks through a smashed window at the Jewish centre
Moroccans were supposed to be celebrating a royal birth

Occasionally at a street corner, a crowd of men crane their necks over a selection of newspapers spread out in front of a magazine kiosk.

The headlines declare that Morocco will not give in to international terrorism, call for increased vigilance and firm action against criminal acts.

But the words are obscured by the terrible pictures - the most horrifying that of a disembodied head, one eye still open staring down into a coagulated swathe of blood - apparently belonging to one of the suicide bombers.

And in a pitiful juxtaposition , these pictures nestle near those taken a few days ago of a beaming King Mohammed cradling his newborn son - whose birth Morocco was still supposed to be celebrating this weekend.




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