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Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 16:18 UK

Dozens jailed over Morocco blast

Scene of a suicide bombing at an internet cafe in Casablanca
The cafe owner had tried to stop the bomber accessing jihadi websites

A Moroccan court has sentenced more than 40 people to up to 30 years in prison over a suicide bombing last year at an internet cafe in Casablanca.

The bomber died in the attack, and three people were wounded.

The state news agency MAP said that those accused had been planning a string of attacks in Casablanca using home-made explosives.

The plot was uncovered by the investigation following the internet cafe bombing, authorities said.

The sentences came one day after another major terrorism trial got under way, involving the alleged leader of an extremist cell accused of links to al-Qaeda and planning to murder prominent figures within Morocco.

The BBC's James Copnall in Rabat says the Moroccan authorities regularly break up what they call terrorist groups, and there are currently nearly 1,000 Islamic radicals in Moroccan jails.

Human rights campaigners say that alleged extremists are often convicted on flimsy evidence - a charge the state strongly denies.

Slum area

The defendants sentenced on Friday all denied charges that included forming a criminal gang with the aim of committing terrorist acts, making explosives, theft, forgery and failure to denounce terrorism.

One man was given a 30-year sentence, and 44 others received jail terms of between two and 15 years.

One person received a suspended sentence. Four others were acquitted.

"The members of this organisation being formed had planned attacks on the port of Casablanca, an auxiliary forces barracks in Bournazel [Casablanca] and police stations," MAP reported.

No details were given about the defendants' individual roles.

The alleged leader of the plot, Abdelfettah Raydi, detonated an explosive belt in a Casablanca internet cafe to avoid arrest in March 2007, killing only himself.

The cafe's manager said he had tried to stop him viewing jihadist websites.

A month later three men, including Abdelfettah Raydi's brother, blew themselves up during a police raid, also killing a police officer, and two more men died in a similar incident days after that.

The March 2007 blast occurred in a slum area of the city that was home to 13 suicide bombers who carried out a series of co-ordinated suicide bombings in 2003 which left 33 people dead.


SEE ALSO
New suicide attacks hit Morocco
14 Apr 07 |  Middle East
Morocco 'bomber brother' killed
11 Apr 07 |  Africa


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