May 1, 2011 in Nation/World

Cafe bombing has Morocco reeling

Jamey Keaten Associated Press
Associated Press photo

The coffin of Yassine Bouzidi is carried at his funeral Saturday. He and at least 15 others died Thursday when a terrorist set off a bomb in a Marrakech cafe.
(Full-size photo)

MARRAKECH, Morocco – A messy heap of Moroccan pastries sits in a shattered glass display case. Twisted nails, strips of clothing and mobile phone parts have been collected and placed in rows of jars. Tourist maps and a charred Douglas Adams novel lie in clear plastic evidence bags, while the walls and floors bear the bloodstains and nail-size scars of a bomb blast that took the lives of 16 people days earlier.

Investigators hosted journalists Saturday at the devastated remains of the Marrakech cafe where a terrorist detonated a bomb on Thursday, killing mostly Western tourists and injuring more than two dozen more. Seven French, two Canadians, two Moroccans, a Dutch and a Briton have so far been identified as being among the dead.

A visibly shaken King Mohammed VI earlier emerged from a long convoy of black Mercedes sedans to pay a somber visit to the scene, underscoring the importance of tourism to Morocco’s economy. It came just weeks after he promised constitutional reforms to shepherd in more democracy amid a push across the Arab world.

He denounced Thursday’s attack as “cowardly” and “criminal,” saying it would “only strengthen the Moroccan people’s will to stand up to whoever might attempt to derail the model that has been chosen for democratic (reforms) and development.”

Officials say no one has claimed responsibility for the blast, which burrowed a crater nearly 3 feet wide and nearly as deep in the second-floor terrace of the Argana cafe that overlooks Djemaa el-Fna, the city’s historic square. The cafe was renowned as a place for tourists to hang out, gazing down on the square’s snake charmers, fruit vendors and mystics.

Investigators said Saturday that the bombing looked like the work of professionals, and it was unlikely the perpetrator acted alone. Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui had said Friday that the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida, though the terror group’s role has not been confirmed.

Investigators said early estimates suggested that the charge involved about 9 pounds of explosives. They have ruled out a suicide bombing – saying the bomber had fled the scene by the time of the blast.

Taoufiq Sayerh, head of the national scientific police squad, said the cafe did not appear to have security cameras on the terrace.

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