Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb denied any responsibility for last month’s fatal bombing at a bustling café in the heart of the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Saturday, as hundreds of people gathered at the site to denounce acts of terrorism.
AFP - Hundreds gathered to denounce terrorism at the site of a deadly bomb attack in Marrakesh Saturday as Al-Qaeda's regional offshoot denied any involvement in the atrocity.
Moroccans joined with foreigners based in the city and tourists outside the cafe in Djemaa El Fna Square where the April 28 blast killed 17 people, mainly visitors.
A group known as the February 20 Movement, which is calling for political reform in Morocco, is meanwhile planning to hold a peaceful demonstration at the square on Sunday.
The action came as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) denied all responsibility for the attack in a statement put out by a Mauritanian news agency.
"We deny any link to this explosion and declare we are in no way involved in this operation," said the Friday-dated statement in Arabic carried by the Nouakchott News Agency (ANI).
In the message, AQIM urged Moroccans not to be distracted by the bombing and the charges leveled against the group, and to revolt against their government.
Moroccan authorities had pointed the finger at AQIM following the blast at the Argana cafe in the southern city which attracts thousands of tourists.
Organisers of Saturday's gathering dubbed the event "an orange juice against terrorism" in reference to reports that the bomber ordered the drink before detonating his explosives.
"The idea of the gathering is to drink an orange juice at Djemaa El Fna square in a sign of rejecting terrorism," one of the group said.
"I'm here to express my emotion and my anger about what has happened. We love Morocco, we love Marrakesh, and we will say it loud and clear, said a Marrakesh businessman who has lived in the city for more than five years.
The Moroccan minister for tourism and the French consul general in Marrakesh were among the officials at the gathering.
The city is home to around 20,000 French people, while eight of the 17 dead were French.
"To be in front of the Argana is moving and sad. I'm here to say no to terrorism," a Swiss tourist from Zurich said.
"Democracy and social justice are the best shield against terrorism and violence in all its forms," Mahjoub Bisnas, a member of the group told AFP.
Moroccan authorities arrested three people on Thursday, including the suspected mastermind of the bombing.
Interior Minister Taieb Cherkaoui said on Friday the main suspect, whose identity has not been revealed, plotted the attack at his parents' home in Safi, 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of Casablanca.
Cherkaoui added that the three Moroccan suspects in custody "admire Al-Qaeda, are filled with Al-Qaeda ideology and with Salafist ideology," in a reference to a radical Islamist movement.
The suspected bomber, wearing a wig and carrying a guitar, left two bags containing the bombs on the Argana cafe terrace and triggered the blasts with a mobile phone just after leaving the cafe, a security source said.
"He chose Marrakesh because the town attracts a lot of foreign visitors," Cherkaoui said.
Mahjoub Bisnas of the Febvruary 20 Movement said: "Sunday's demonstration is a message to the Moroccan authorities: we demand democracy because it's the most efficient means of combatting terrorism.
"Democracy allows for more transparency in political exchanges."
The north African monarchy has largely been spared the unrest that has shaken other countries in the region, though demonstrations have brought several thousand people on to the streets.
Sunday's protest was called in spite of an announcement by King Mohammed VI on March 9 of comprehensive constitutional reforms, including the independence of the country's judicial system and the separation of powers.
Map of Marrakesh's main square Jamaa el-Fna
Date created : 2011-05-07