Africa

Marrakesh cafe bomb 'was set off remotely'

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Media captionThe aftermath of the bomb attack in Marrakesh

The bomb that killed 16 people in a cafe in Marrakesh was set off by a remote-controlled device, Morroco's interior minister has said.

Taieb Cherkaoui's comments came as he briefed lawmakers on Thursday's blast at the Argana cafe.

The French interior minister says at least six of the dead were French.

British travel writer Peter Moss was also among those killed, along with two Canadians, an Israeli, one Dutch national and two Moroccans.

Mr Moss, from London, had worked mainly for the Jewish Chronicle. His family has been informed of his death.

Two Marrakesh residents - who were near the cafe in the Djemaa el-Fna square - earlier told Reuters the blast was carried out by a suicide bomber.

No group has so far said it carried out the attack in the major tourist spot.

However, a video attributed to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), seen posted on the internet on Friday, included a threat to Morocco three days before the Marrakesh blast, according to the AFP news agency.

The last serious attack in Morocco was in Casablanca in 2003, when 45 people - including suicide bombers - were killed.

'Heinous and cruel'

On Friday, Mr Cherkaoui told deputies in Rabat that the bomb was set off "from a distance", AFP reports.

He added: "Initial inquiries have shown that an explosive product made up of nitrate and ammonium and two TATP (triacetone triperoxyde) explosives, and also with nails."

As investigations continued on Friday, details of the nationalities of those killed began to emerge.

The Moroccan interior ministry also issued a statement saying seven of the 16 dead had so far been identified.

In Israel, reports said an Israeli woman and her husband, thought to be Moroccan, had been killed in the blast.

The couple, who lived in Shanghai, China, were said to be visiting her father for the Jewish festival of Passover.

One Dutch national was also reported to have died and two others were seriously injured, the Netherlands foreign ministry said. They were part of a Dutch tour group.

French officials added that seven French nationals were injured in the blast.

President Nicolas Sarkozy branded the attack "heinous, cruel and cowardly", his office said.

Mr Sarkozy spoke by telephone to King Mohammed VI, who ordered a "speedy and transparent inquiry" when he chaired a council of ministers at the royal palace in Fez.

Paris has dispatched forensic investigators and anti-terrorist officers to help the Moroccan enquiry, AFP says.

Moroccan Communications Minister Khalid Naciri told the AFP that "this was a terrorist act" and that the country would react "with diligence".

"Morocco is confronted by the same threats as in May 2003," he said.

Police said checkpoints had been set up at the entrances to Morocco's main cities. French intelligence and counter-terrorism experts are to travel to the former French colony on Friday, officials in Paris said.

Morocco has remained relatively peaceful amid recent unrest in north Africa and the Arab world, but the king has pledged constitutional reforms following several largely peaceful protests over the past two months.

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