Casablanca bombing convicts escape from jail
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Nine alleged Islamic extremists responsible for a 2003 Casablanca bombings that killed 45 people escaped from their prison in Morocco. Most of the escapees were serving life sentences. (Story: M. Henbest)
RABAT - Nine radical Islamists jailed for their links with Casablanca suicide bombings that killed 45 people in 2003 escaped from a Moroccan top security jail on Monday, the Justice Ministry said.
The nine men broke out of Kenitra prison, 40 km (25 miles) east of Rabat, the Ministry said.
"All the measures have been taken to arrest the escaped detainees," it added in a statement, adding that authorities were investigating how the prisoners managed to escape.
Islamist prisoner rights advocacy group Ennassir said the jailbreak coincided with the beginning of a one-day hunger strike by about 1,000 Islamist prisoners held at several prisons across Morocco, including Kenitra's.
"Most of the escaped prisoners had been sentenced to life imprisonment late in 2003 for their links with 2003's Casablanca bombings. It is the first such jailbreak," Ennassir chairman Abderrahim Mohtad told Reuters.
Mohtad said the Islamist prisoners were fasting on Monday to protest against what they called mistreatment and repression by prison officials. Authorities were not immediately available to comment on the prisoner allegations.
Morocco's prisons are overcrowded and squalid and most of the 60,000 prisoners complain of lack of decent food and access to healthcare, human rights groups said.
Islamist detainees want to be given "political prisoner status" which would allow them better conditions.
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