Morocco seeks al-Qaeda link

Moroccan authorities, quick to suggest that the al-Qaeda network was linked to the bombings that killed 41 on Friday, are struggling to find a smoking gun.

    Al-Qaeda has been accused of
    Friday's attacks?

    Communication Minister Nabil Bin Abdullah admitted today that conclusive evidence of the alleged link remains elusive.

    "To say right now that al-Qaeda is behind these attacks would be to state things of which we are still not altogether certain," the minister told French radio on Monday.

    "We will be affirmative on these questions as soon as we have concrete proof," he added.

    Police have arrested more than 30 suspects in connection with the deadly attacks in which 22 Morrocan civilians and six tourists were killed.

    Suspect backgrounds

    Investigators have established that some of the assailants had only recently returned to Morocco from abroad, according to Justice Minister Mohammad Bouzoubaa.

    He also said on Monday that all suspects originated from Casablanca's impoverished Sidi Mumin district.

    The industrial area southeast of Casablanca is popularly associated with the Moroccan group al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (ASM), to which investigators have linked Friday's attackers.

    One of the suspects arrested is cooperating in the investigation. Police believe he is a “would-be suicide bomber” who "must have panicked" while he and two others were attacking the Farah Hotel.

    But so far no evidence of his alleged connection with al-Qaeda has been forthcoming.

    All bombers identified to date have been Moroccan, said Said Louahlia, director of the Casablanca morgue, adding that they ranged in age from 18 to 25 and had been "newly shaven."

    Confident assertion

    Schily: Al-Qaeda clearly involved

    German Interior Minister Otto Schily, unaffected by Morocco’s hesitancy in linking the synchronised attacks to Osama Bin Ladin’s network, said on Sunday that the style of the attacks, here and in Riyadh four days earlier, were a "clear indication" of al-Qaeda's hand.

    "Our assessment that al-Qaeda and similar organisations are still active has been proved right in a horrific way," the minister told German television.

    Future attacks

    Germany's federal intelligence service, BND, warned that the secretive international network had reorganised and may be planning more attacks in Africa, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

    A BND report quoted by Sunday's edition of the newspaper Die Welt said a new generation of activists were now leading al-Qaeda, which carried out the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, and that it had found new means of financing its operations.

    Many members of Islamic groups have been arrested in Morocco in recent months, and US officials have praised Rabat's cooperation in exchanging intelligence on suspects and actively pursuing individuals believed to be associated with al-Qaeda.

    While receiving praise from the US, however, the Moroccan government has come under fire from non-violent Islamist groups nationally for delaying municipal elections due to be held in June.


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