Page last updated at 04:39 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 05:39 UK

Casablanca bomb convicts escape

An entrance to the Kenitra prison (image from February 2007)

Nine people convicted of involvement with suicide bombings in Casablanca have escaped from a Moroccan prison, officials say.

Prison authorities at Kenitra, 40km (25 miles) north of the capital, Rabat, noticed the escape on Monday morning, the justice ministry told state media.

An interior ministry source told AFP news agency that the prisoners had tunnelled their way out.

The 2003 attacks left 45 people dead, including 12 bombers, and many injured.

Most of the nine men were serving life sentences for involvement in the bombings, a group which supports Islamist prisoners said.


The men are reported to have escaped just after morning prayers on Monday.


The escape took place as hundreds of Islamist convicts held a one-day hunger strike in prisons across Morocco in protest at their conditions.

A source close to Islamist prisoners told the BBC the nine men had left a message on the wall of their jail.

It said they had suffered injustice and were escaping because they saw no other solution to their woes, stressing that they had received no outside help for their prison break.

All possible measures were being taken to find the fugitives, the justice ministry said in a statement on state news agency MAP.

Officials had been sent to the prison to investigate how the convicts had broken out, it said.

In December 2007, drugs baron Mohammad Ouazzani escaped from the same jail.

Eight prison guards were subsequently convicted of helping him.

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