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Authorities identify dead in Morocco cafe attack

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[April 29, 2011]  MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) -- The international police agency Interpol called the attack on a crowded tourist cafe in Marrakech a suspected suicide bombing Friday, as the government said two Canadians, two French citizens, a Dutchman and two Moroccans were among the 15 killed in the explosion.

Police sought to restore calm to the jewel of this country's tourism industry the day after one of the country's worst terrorist attacks and investigators worked to determine how it was carried out and who was responsible.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the death toll was 15, and that seven of the victims have been identified, from France, Canada, the Netherlands and Morocco. The state news agency MAP had earlier put the death toll at 16. More than 20 people were wounded.

MAP said two people died of injuries in the hospital. The emergency room chief at Marrakech's main Tofail Hospital told The Associated Press that one of the injured died at the hospital and another en route in an ambulance.

Police were at the site searching for clues Friday morning, keeping back onlookers who showed up to see the dramatic sight. The explosion ripped off the facade of the Argana cafe, leaving awnings dangling.

Morocco's deadliest attack in eight years hit the heart of the city's bustling old quarter, in Djemma el-Fna square, one of the top attractions in a country that depends heavily on tourism.

Government spokesman Khalid Naciri told the AP it was too soon to lay blame for what he called a terrorist attack. But he noted that Morocco regularly dismantles cells linked to al-Qaida, and says it has disrupted several plots.

Authorities were struggling to coordinate the response to the attack. Some questioned whether it would prompt a new security crackdown like that after suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003, or undermine constitutional changes that King Mohamed VI recently pledged in response to protests.

Two of the dead were a Jewish couple who lived in Shanghai, an Israeli citizen and her Moroccan husband, according to the Israeli consul in Shanghai, Jackie Eldan. They were visiting his parents in Casablanca and had taken a day trip to Marrakech, leaving their 3-year-old son with his grandparents.

"They took a day off to go to Marrakech and left the child with the family. To their misfortune, they were in the cafe on the second floor" when the bombing hit, Eldan told Israeli station Army Radio on Friday.

The international Jewish outreach group Lubavitch identified the couple as Messod and Michal Wizman, 32 and 30 respectively.

Visitors gather on the iconic square to watch snake charmers, storytellers, jugglers and local musicians, filling the cafes that ring the edges of the square on the route to the city's major open-air souk, or market.

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the "cowardly attack" and promised support for Morocco, a steady U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism.

Interpol offered its assistance in the investigation, including disaster victim identification specialists and support from terrorism investigators. The Lyon, France-based body said in a statement it offered to issue worldwide "wanted" notices for potential suspects.

Al-Qaida's affiliate in North Africa stages regular attacks and kidnappings in neighboring Algeria. Morocco, however, has been mostly peaceful since it was hit by five simultaneous terrorist bombings in Casablanca in 2003 that killed 33 people and a dozen bombers believed linked to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, a local militant group also implicated in the deadly transit attacks in Madrid in March 2004.

Moroccan authorities have rounded up thousands of purported terror suspects in recent years and while they "regularly discover terrorist cells ... nothing led us to foresee an act of this magnitude," Naciri said.


"Morocco has an international image of welcome, hospitality and tourism," he told the AP. "An act of this magnitude will leave its mark."

[Associated Press; By JAMEY KEATEN and HASSAN ALAOUI]

Elaine Ganley in Paris and Matti Friedman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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