A deadly bomb blast ripped through a popular Moroccan café in the center of Marrakesh just before noon on Thursday, killing at least 14 and injuring at least 20. Initial reports say at least 11 of the dead were tourists.
The explosion in the Jemma el Fna square — a top tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage site — is Morocco’s deadliest bombing since 2003, when a round of suicide bombings in Casablanca killed 45 people.
“You can’t find a more emblematic target than Jamaa-el-Fnaa square,” one restaurant owner in the city told the Guardian. “With this attack and amid the worrying unrest in the region, tourism will hit the doldrums.”
News reports say the government is calling the bombing “a crimininal act.”
“Analysis of the early evidence collected at the site of the blast that occurred Thursday at a cafe in Marrakesh confirms the theory of an attack,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency, according to MSNBC.
Moroccan government spokesman Khalid Nacir told French television “terrorists” were behind the attack but added that it was “too soon” to give more details, the BBC reports.
Amid the tide of uprisings that have swept the Middle East and North Africa, Moroccans have held several mass protests across the country calling for reforms, although not the ouster of King Mohammed VI.
It is not immediately known whether the attack was linked to unrest across the Arab world or militant activity, although there have been some protests in Morocco lately.
Thousands of Moroccans held a peaceful demonstration nationwide Sunday, calling for a radical overhaul of the country’s governance before a new constitution is unveiled in June by King Mohammed VI.
The march was organized by the Facebook youth movement Fevrier 20. The group said its members would not accept the present draft constitution because it was written by the king’s own people. It denounced his decision to refer the new constitution to a committee he appointed.
King Mohammed announced last month he would give up some of his wide-scale powers and make the judiciary independent — the latter a particularly hot subject in Morocco.
Calls for an end to political detention and questions about the king’s personal business activities were also on protesters’ banners. There was visible resentment at the royal family’s business operations, controlled by its holding company SNI. There were also groups protesting about the prices of basic household items.
A new round of protests is planned for Sunday, MSNBC reports, even as King Mohammed has promised to reform the constitution to placate protesters who have been inspired by uprisings in other part of the Arab world.
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Photo courtesy of Britrob via Flickr