|Morocco bomb probe
MARRAKESH, Morocco (AFP) – A bomb
in Marrakesh that killed 16 people was set off by a
remote-control device and bore the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda, a
Moroccan minister said.
“The way in which this act was carried out reminds us of the
style normally used by the Al-Qaeda organisation,” Interior
Minister Taeb Cherkaoui told reporters on Friday.
He also updated the death toll from 15 to 16, and said 13 of
those killed had been identified: they were seven French
nationals, two Canadians, two Moroccans, a Dutch national
and a British national.
A medical source told AFP that the 16 dead in Thursday’s
explosion comprised eight French nationals, two Canadians,
two Moroccans, a British man, a Dutchman, a Swiss man and a
The British man was identified as Peter Moss, 59, from
London, according to the Jewish Chronicle paper. The father
of two was a writer, comedian and broadcaster, according to
the London-based publication.
Another report in the Israeli media suggested that a
30-year-old pregnant Israeli woman and her husband,
originally from Morocco, had been among the victims.
Earlier, Cherkaoui told deputies in Rabat: “Initial
inquiries have shown an explosive product made up of nitrate
and ammonium and two TATP explosives, and also with nails –
and the explosion was set off from a distance.
Triacetone triperoxyde, or TATP, is relatively easy to make
and has surfaced in a number of recent investigations into
attacks, including the July 2005 London bombings that killed
56 people and injured another 700.
Witnesses said the blast went off on the terrace of the
Argana cafe, a popular tourist cafe in Djemaa el-Fna,
Marrakesh’s main square, wrecking the facade and the first
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing since the
attack took place. But a video posted on the Internet three
days before the bombing and attributed to Al-Qaeda in the
Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) included a threat to Morocco.
It showed five young men, armed, dressed in desert fatigues,
their faces covered by the Arab headdress, or shemagh. AQIM
has been active in countries in the region, notably carrying
out a series of kidnappings for ransom.
Dutch tourist John Van Leeuwen told AFP he had looked the
man believed responsible for the attack in the eyes moments
before the blast.
“There were only tourists in the cafe, and three other
Moroccans, and one guy that didn’t initially look
suspicious,” Van Leeuwen told AFP by telephone as he waited,
with Marjolein Appel, 39, to catch a flight home.
“But after we found out it wasn’t a gas explosion, my
girlfriend and I, we looked at each other, and said that
must have been him.
The man had been carrying “two huge bags”, and he thought he
had left the cafe shortly after him and his girlfriend, he
Police created a photofit image of the alleged bomber based
on their description and “it looks as if it’s someone that
is familiar to the police”, said Van Leeuwen.
|In US visit, Japan says to keep global
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Japan pledged Friday
that it would stay active on the world stage and maintain
aid to Afghanistan as it sought to ease US concerns that the
key Asian ally would turn inward after its mega-disaster.
Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, who took office just two
days before his country was ravaged by one of history’s most
powerful earthquakes on March 11, flew to Washington for
talks on his first bilateral visit overseas.
“We were hit by the earthquake, but we wish to emerge
stronger and to continue to fulfil our responsibility in the
international community,” Matsumoto said after talks with
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I would like to express our gratitude for the support given
by the United States and also convey our determination to
recover,” he said.
Clinton and Matsumoto said they discussed disaster relief
but also a range of global issues such as the Middle East
along with key regional priorities for Japan such as
diplomacy on North Korea and China.
Clinton said that Japan had made “critical contributions” to
Afghanistan, a leading focus for the United States as it
tries to find a political solution to end its decade-long
Japan “just announced that it will continue its financial
assistance to Afghanistan at the same level as before the
earthquake,” Clinton said.
“That is a remarkable example of both leadership and
generosity that we appreciate,” Clinton said. Japan in 2009
pledged up to $5 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the
following five years.
Matsumoto later left Washington on a trip that will take him
to Belgium, Germany and Senegal, where he will go ahead with
a previously scheduled aid conference between Japan and
African leaders, a Japanese official said.
The US military, which stations some 47,000 troops in Japan,
mounted a round-the-block relief operation after the
earthquake as it ferried supplies, repaired the key Sendai
airport and helped the grisly task of searching for bodies.
The relief operation has helped ease some of the recent
frictions between the United States and Japan, whose
centre-left government that took office in 2009 tried and
failed to renegotiate the location of a key military base.
Despite the renewed spirit of alliance, some US officials
have privately voiced concern that Japan could turn inward
as it undertakes the massive task of rebuilding from the
disaster that left nearly 26,000 people dead or missing.
|62 killed in protests,
Syria faces sanctions
|DAMASCUS (AFP) – At least 62 people died in clashes in
Syria when tens of thousands of protesters marked a “day of
rage,” activists said, as Washington and Brussels decided to
slap sanctions on Damascus.
Syrian authorities said nine members of the security forces
were killed at the hands of “terrorist groups” in Friday’s
Pro-democracy protests were held against President Bashar
al-Assad’s regime in most cities and major towns after
Muslim weekly prayers, as on past Fridays since last month,
At least 33 civilians were killed in and around the protest
epicentre of Daraa, the London-based Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights told AFP in Nicosia, adding it had a list of
names of those confirmed killed.
Military officials said five soldiers were also killed and
two captured by “armed terrorists” in the Daraa region of
And 27 civilians were killed in and around the industrial
city of Homs, north of Damascus, the Observatory said, and
two more in the Mediterranean port city of Latakia.
A military spokesman said one of the troops killed was a
victim of “armed terrorists” who raided the family homes of
soldiers in villages around Daraa. Dozens of assailants were
killed and wounded, and 156 arrested, he said.
Three soldiers were killed when “another terrorist group”
tried to cut off the main highway linking the cities of Homs
and Hama, north of Damascus, the spokesman said, quoted by
the state news agency SANA.
A policeman in Daraa was also among the dead.
As the violence raged, Washington blocked the assets of the
president’s brother Maher al-Assad, who commands Syria’s
feared Fourth Armoured Division, of several other top
officials and its intelligence services.
“We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms the
absolutely deplorable actions that the Syrian government is
taking against its own people. The violence must end
immediately,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels launched preparations for
an embargo on the sale of weapons and equipment that might
be used for internal repression.
The 27-nation bloc will also “urgently consider further
appropriate and targeted measures with the aim of achieving
an immediate change of policy by the Syrian leadership”,
said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
In addition, the EU decided to put the brakes on an
association agreement that could open the way for Syria to
win preferential trade deals with the EU, Ashton said.
In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed a US call
for an investigative mission on the bloodshed as it voted in
favour of a resolution condemning the crackdown on protests.
Ahead of Friday’s bloodshed, dissidents said security forces
using live rounds and tear gas already killed more than 450
people since the pro-democracy protests erupted in
The call for mass demonstrations was issued on a Facebook
page, The Syrian Revolution 2011, a motor of the protests in
which demonstrators inspired by uprisings across the Arab
world are seeking greater freedoms.