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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Morocco suspect dies in custody
Policemen inspect wrecked terrace of Casa de Espana restaurant
Five co-ordinated blasts were set off around Casablanca
A suspected mastermind of Casablanca's suicide bomb attacks has died in custody from chronic heart and liver disease, Moroccan officials say.

State prosecutor Moulay Abdellah Alaoui Belghiti said Abdelhaq Mousabbat died while being taken by investigators from the central city of Fes to Casablanca.

Mr Belghiti said the suspect - whom he described as the "general co-ordinator of the attacks" - was arrested on Monday in Fes.

A total of 43 people, including 12 bombers, were killed and about 100 injured in five blasts that ripped through Morocco's largest city earlier this month.

Radical group

Moulsabbat "suffered chronic heart and liver diseases. His liver weighed 2.1 kilograms (4.6 pounds) against the average 1.4 to 1.5 kgs (3.3 pounds)," Mr Belghiti said.

Mr Belghiti called Moulsabbat the "emir" (meaning in Arabic, commander) of the attacks on different locations in Casablanca on 16 May.

A Jewish community centre, a busy Spanish restaurant and social club, and the Belgian consulate, were all targeted within 30 minutes of each other.

Moroccan officials have linked the attacks to "international terrorism", but have not officially commented on Western reports of involvement by the militant network al-Qaeda.

Investigators have been focusing on a small, radical group known as Islamic Assirat el Moustaqim, based in Casablanca's poor neighbourhoods and reputed to have followers in cities such as Fes.

Observers have expressed doubts as to whether the group would have had the capacity for such an attack.

Around 30 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks in raids across the country, and pictures of some wanted suspects have been published.

Morocco's King Mohammed has promised a full investigation into the attacks and the country has beefed up its security assuring tourists it is still a safe country to visit.

On Tuesday, the country's parliament passed a new anti-terrorism law increasing the number of offences punishable by death.


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