Morocco`s King visits site of deadly bombing

Mohammed VI spent about 10 minutes inspecting the debris-littered restaurant.

Updated: May 01, 2011, 00:01 AM IST

Marrakech: Moroccan King Mohammed VI vowed on Saturday that a bombing in the heart of the country`s tourist hub of Marrakech that killed at least 16 people will not derail the kingdom`s program of democratic reforms, the official MAP news agency reported.

The monarch made the comments during a visit to the Argana cafe, where the bomb exploded on Thursday.

Mohammed VI spent about 10 minutes inspecting the debris-littered restaurant, which has long been an almost obligatory stop for visitors to Marrakech. The victims included 14 foreigners.

"Such a cowardly criminal attack is contrary to the noble humanist values of respect for the value of life, tolerance, freedom and peace that the Moroccan people hold dear," the King was quoted as saying. "It will only strengthen the Moroccan people`s will to stand up to whomever might attempt to derail the model that has been chosen for democratic (reforms) and development."

For the first time since the attack, crime scene investigators opened the cafe to journalists following the monarch`s visit.

A crater about a yard (meter) wide and nearly as deep scarred the centre of the balcony terrace looking over the Djemaa el-Fna, a bustling square in the centre of the city. Rusty brown stains spattered some of the walls, while shards of plates littered the ground.

Chunks of plaster and a blown out fan dangled from the ceiling. A glass case, its panel blown out, still held a selection of honey and pistachio-filled Moroccan pastries.

Crime scene investigators told journalists it was unlikely the perpetrator had acted alone.

The monarch is a revered figure in Morocco, and thousands of people congregated on the Djemaa el-Fna square in hopes of catching a glimpse of the king. A big contingent of security forces was deployed to the square before the visit.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blast — the most deadly in the North African kingdom since five near-simultaneous bombings left 45 people dead — including a dozen attackers — in the country`s economic capital, Casablanca, in 2003.

Since those attacks, the kingdom has regularly dismantled al Qaeda cells and at times said it thwarted would-be attacks. Thousands of Islamists, either suspects or those convicted in terrorism cases, are in Moroccan jails.

Al Qaeda`s affiliate in North Africa stages regular attacks and kidnappings in neighbouring Algeria, but Morocco has been largely peaceful since the Casablanca bombings.

Bureau Report