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Huge blast kills 14 in Morocco cafe

Associated Press / April 29, 2011

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MARRAKECH, Morocco — A massive terrorist bombing tore through cafe in the bustling heart of Marrakech’s old quarter yesterday, killing at least 11 foreigners and three Moroccans in the country’s deadliest attack in eight years.

At least 23 people were wounded in the blast a few minutes before noon in Djemma el-Fna square, Moroccan Interior Minister Taib Chergaoui said.

Government spokesman Khalid Naciri said it was too soon to lay blame for what he called a terrorist attack. But he noted that Morocco regularly dismantles cells linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and said the country has disrupted several plots.

April marks the start of Morocco’s tourist season, when visitors gather to watch snake charmers, storytellers, jugglers, and local musicians, filling the cafes that ring the edges of the iconic square on the route to the city’s major open-air market.

“There was a huge bang, and lots of smoke went up. There was debris raining down from the sky,’’ said honeymooner Andy Birnie, who lives in north London. “Hundreds of people were running in panic.’’

This former French colony has enjoyed relative stability compared to some of its neighbors, but King Mohamed VI holds the final say in all policy, and the country’s largest Islamist movement is banned from politics.

The king has pledged constitutional reforms in response to largely peaceful protests over the past two months that were inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

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