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Morocco police hunt for more bombers: newspapers

RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccan security forces were hunting more suspected suicide bombers a day after four were killed in Casablanca, newspapers reported on Wednesday.

Policemen cordon off the scene of an explosion in Casablanca April 10, 2007. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Three suspected bombers detonated their explosive belts, killing themselves and at least one police officer and wounding more than 20 people in a police raid on a safe house in which a fourth was shot dead, police sources said.

“Moroccan security forces are pursuing their search of a gang of people wearing explosive belts that threaten the safety of the citizens and the country’s security,” said leading pro-government Arabic-language Al Alam daily.

Government officials declined to comment on the report, citing ongoing investigation.

The four were killed a day before a series of bombings in Algiers, capital of neighboring Algeria where Al Qaeda seeks to bring together radical groups in the region.

Among the four dead suspects, police named Ayoub Raidy, brother of Abdellatif Raidy who killed himself at an Internet cafe on March 11 in the Sidi Moumen slum to avoid arrest.

The government says Abdellatif Raidy, a 23-year-unemployed, was leader of a ring of more than 50 radical Islamists that included an unknown number of suspected bombers. Security forces have detained more than 40 suspects since Raidy blew himself up.

Analysts questioned government’s assertions that such Islamist Jihadists were “home-grown” and posed no serious threat to security because they lacked leadership and experience.

“I think there are links abroad,” said Moroccan analyst Mohamed Darif. “The authorities will have to correct their interpretation after yesterday’s events.”

He said he doubted Raydi’s ability to build a network and amass complex weapons and explosives expertise on his own and while under government surveillance.

And what was known of the group fitted with what observers know of Al Qaeda’s tactics, he said.

“For reasons of secrecy, you must indoctrinate someone and bring them to die for God without letting them know they are members of a bigger organization.”

Newspaper Al Alam did not say how many suspected bombers were being hunted by police but Annass daily said the number of those suspected bombers could be more than 10.

Assabah, another Arabic-language seen as well informed in security matters, said police were searching for at least one suspected bomber on the run in Fida district of Casablanca.

Leaders of mainstream Islamist groups say radical Islamists bent on violence have limited appeal because the main Islamist groups oppose violence and seek peaceful means for reforms.

“Radical elements like those who blew themselves up are on the fringe of the Islamist movement,” said Abdellah Benkirane, a leading figure in moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, the main legal opposition group in parliament.

Thirteen slum dwellers blew themselves in central Casablanca, killing 32 people on May 16, 2003.

Additional reporting by Zakia Abdennebi