3 Suspected Terrorists Blow Themselves Up In Morocco After Police Raid

Tuesday, April 10th 2007, 7:08 pm
By: News On 6

CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) _ Acting on a tip, Moroccan police surrounded a building where four terrorism suspects were holed up Tuesday, causing three to flee and blow themselves up with explosives. The fourth was shot dead by a police sharpshooter as he apparently tried to detonate his bomb.

A police officer was killed and 10 people, including a young child and a policeman, suffered injuries.

Coming just weeks after a bombing at an Internet cafe, the series of explosions revived memories of five near-simultaneous suicide bombings that killed 45 people in the country's biggest city in May 2003 _ this North African kingdom's first brush with Islamic terrorism.

Police have since pursued an unprecedented crackdown on suspected militants, arresting thousands of people, including some accused of working with al-Qaida and its affiliates to plot attacks in Morocco and abroad.

The latest blasts came as Morocco prepares for parliamentary elections in September. The opposition Justice and Development Party, an Islamic group, is expected to lead the voting.

Officials said Tuesday's police raid targeted four suspects with alleged links to the bomber who killed himself in the March 11 cybercafe blast.

``These men had no ties with foreign groups,'' said Mokhtar Bakali, regional administrator for the Casablanca region. ``All of the suspects were members of the March 11 group.''

One of the bombers who killed himself, Ayyoub Raydi, was the brother of the cybercafe bomber, Abdelfettah Raydi, the Interior Ministry said.

Tuesday's violence started when police, acting on a tip, surrounded a four-story apartment building in the working-class Hay Farah neighborhood of Casablanca where the suspected terrorists were holed up, officials said.

One of the suspects fled to the roof, where he blew himself up, said a police official on the scene who refused to give his name, saying he was not authorized to do so. Morocco's official MAP news agency identified that bomber as Mohamed Rachidi.

A second man appeared to be on the verge of detonating explosives, fumbling with his clothes, when a police sniper shot him, officials said. The suspect, who later died of his wounds, was identified by police as Mohamed Mentala. He was carrying nearly nine pounds of explosives, an Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing ministry policy.

Mentala and Rachidi had both been sought by police for alleged involvement in the 2003 suicide bombings, the Interior Ministry official said.

Ayyoub Raydi, the Internet cafe bomber's brother, fled, and blew himself up in the afternoon as police searched the neighborhood, officials said. A bloody pair of legs were seen lying in the middle of a road after that blast. Police covered up the legs, shorn off at the knees, with pieces of cardboard. Broken glass and charred debris littered the street.

A police officer was reported killed and another seriously injured when Ayyoub Raydi blew up. A 7-year-old boy was hospitalized with minor injuries.

In the evening, the fourth suspect set off his explosives in the middle of a boulevard, witnesses said. MAP said eight people were injured, two seriously.

Investigations into the March 11 cafe bombing led police to a wider suspected plot to attack the port in Casablanca, as well as police stations and tourist sites in Morocco. The group had amassed dozens of homemade explosives at a Casablanca apartment.

In last month's blast, Abdelfettah Raydi detonated his charge when the cybercafe's owner caught him surfing jihadist Web sites. He was killed and four others were injured.

Police have so far arrested 31 suspects in the terrorism probe. Abdelfettah Raydi and many other suspects were among some 2,000 arrested after the 2003 bombings, but were later released from prison under a royal pardon.

Moroccan authorities have said they do not believe Abdelfettah Raydi's group had links to international terrorist networks.