Friday, October 21, 2011

Death Penalty Sought in Bombing of Marrakech Cafe

Prosecutors in Sale (Morocco) requested the death penalty on Thursday (October 19) against two of eight defendants charged in the Argana Cafe cafe bombing in the old city of Marrakech that killed 17 people on April 28, most of whom were foreigners. Eight French tourists were killed in the bombing, as well as British, Swiss, Moroccan and Portuguese citizens.

The prosecutor has asked the court to hand down the death penalty against Adel al-Othmani, who is accused of disguising himself as a tourist and planting the remotely-detonated bomb, and accomplice Hakim Dah. Al-Othmani, who police say is linked to al-Qaida, recanted his confession in court last month.

COMMENT: Reports by police and judicial investigators indicated witnesses have testified that the defendants also purchased chemicals used to construct the IED. Most of the defendants denied knowing or having any doings with al-Othmani. One, however, said he had spoken with him and knew that he had traveled to Turkey and Chechnya for Jihad.

The Government of Morocco, a strong supporter of US and European anti-terrorism efforts, has a lot to lose if they don't obtain convictions in this case, given the fact that Morocco drew nearly 10 million tourists last year to its sandy beaches, desert and mountain landscapes, and historic sites.

The attack on the two-level Argana Cafe killed 17 and injured 20 others. The bomb was detonated by remote control at roughly noon and tore off the restaurant's facade and left awnings dangling. News photos depicted bystanders dragging bodies from the building so that the resulting fire could be extinguished. The Jamaa el-Fna square in which the Argana is situated is a UNESCO world heritage site known for its snake charmers and fire breathers. Marrakech's old town is usually crowded with tourists.

Islamic militants staged a series of suicide bombings in Morocco's business capital, Casablanca, in 2003. More than 45 people were killed.

The trial will resume on October 27. We will keep our readers apprised of developments in the case.

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