Four terrorists killed as Moroccan police crack down on terror group
Hassan Benmehdi and Naima Belhaj in Casablanca contributed to this report – 11/04/07
Four suspected terrorists and one police officer were killed Tuesday (April 10th) during a police operation in a Casablanca neighborhood. The police crackdown comes a month after a suicide bomber blew himself up in an internet café in Casablanca’s Hay Sidi Moumen district.
Residents of the Hay El Farah neighborhood were wakened early by the sound of a blast coming from a residential building where the four suspects were holed up. A siege by Moroccan police caused three of the suspects to flee and then blow themselves up, while the fourth was shot dead by a sniper as he reportedly tried to detonate explosives.
Casablanca police said that the police sweep had begun at around 5am Tuesday. Security forces scoured the district house by house, street by street and store by store.
The four terrorists were wanted in connection with the March 11th attack in Sidi Moumen. According to AFP, police investigators believe they are part of a local group planning to carry out bombings at the Casablanca port and several police stations. Authorities are reportedly still on the lookout for ten other would-be suicide bombers.
One of the bombers, Ayyoub Raydi, blew himself up near a crowd of people, wounding a seven year old child, a police officer and at least ten bystanders. He was the brother of the cybercafe bomber, Abdelfettah Raydi. Two of the suspects, identified as Mohamed Mentala and Mohamed Rachidi, were wanted for alleged involvement in the 2004 terrorist bombings in Casablanca, AP quoted an interior ministry official as saying. Mentala, who was shot dead by security forces, was on a list of 43 persons wanted on suspicion of having ties to the Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb, the new name for the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
Residents said that the suicide bombers rented the four-story apartment building and showed no signs of belonging to an extremist group. "We didn’t know exactly what they did for a living. We’ve got no idea where they got their money from," one resident who preferred to stay anonymous told Magharebia.
Authorities found hand grenades, mobile phones, explosive materials, and explosive belts in the suspects’ apartments.
The police evacuated residents from the area during their raid on the suicide bombers so as to avoid casualties.
"We thought the first blast was a house falling down or a gas canister exploding. People are saying that was only to be expected because the idea of a terrorist act being carried out in Hay El Farah would never have occurred to them", said an eye-witness.
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