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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Dramatic day of Moroccan attacks
By Owen Clegg
BBC News

Police and aftermath of suicide bombing
The bombs come after a period of relative calm
It was a dramatic day in Casablanca.

A major security operation against suspected Islamist militants resulted in three suspected suicide bombers blowing themselves up and a fourth was shot dead by police as he tried to detonate his device.

The action took place in the El Fida district, a working class neighbourhood of Morocco's largest city, Casablanca, which has a recent history of Islamic militancy.

Morocco has long been known for its stability, a calm enforced with an iron fist by the country's security forces - but all of that changed in May 2003 when explosions rocked the city of Casablanca.

Thirteen suicide bombers struck in five coordinated attacks. Thirty-two people were killed and the security forces swung into action, arresting some 2,000 people.

Al-Qaeda links

As a high-profile trial took place, four men were eventually sentenced to death, part of what was described as a clandestine hardline Islamist group called Salafia Jihadia.

Security sources identified the group as a North African cell linked to al-Qaeda. Calm then returned to Casablanca until last month, when a man was killed and three others wounded in an explosion at an internet cafe.

The explosives, which the man had hidden under his clothes, went off after he came to blows with the cafe's owner, who had refused him permission to log on to radical websites.

Onlookers and police cordon near bomb blast
The bombers are believed to have worn their explosives at all times

Again, more arrests and investigation by the security forces.

Since then, it is reported that the police have been searching for up to 12 suspected suicide bombers, possibly linked to Salafia Jihadia.

It is believed the bombers had started wearing their explosive belts at all times to stop security forces from taking them alive.

Tuesday's series of explosions suggest Morocco's security forces have been flushing out more members of this cell, and as they close in, face the inevitable outcome of militants who would rather die than surrender.

Bomb carnage shocks Morocco
17 May 03 |  Africa

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