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Casablanca attack convicts escape from prison


First published: April 8, 2008, 10:09 AM IST | Updated: April 8, 2008
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Casablanca attack convicts escape from prison
The Justice Ministry said all measures have been taken to find the escapees.

Paris: Nine people convicted in cases linked to deadly and pivotal 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca have escaped from prison, the state news agency reported Monday.

The Moroccan Justice Ministry said in a statement that officials discovered Monday morning that the nine had escaped from a prison in Kenitra, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital Rabat, the official MAP news agency reported.

The Justice Ministry said all measures have been taken to find the escapees. An official in the Moroccan Interior Ministry confirmed the escape but gave no details about how it happened or the convicts who fled.

MAP said the nine were convicted ''in cases linked to the 2003 events,'' without elaborating.

Suicide bombings in Casablanca in May 2003 killed 45 people, including the attackers, and served as a wake-up call for this relatively moderate Muslim country, a U.S. ally known for its balmy tourist resorts.

The bombings targeted a Jewish community center and cemetery, a hotel, a restaurant and a Spanish social club.

The prison at Kenitra holds many people convicted of terrorism-related crimes, but lacks high-security features such as televised monitors, according to Abdurahim Hamimi, a board member of the Moroccan Prison Monitor, a non-governmental group.

He described the prison break as the most serious in Morocco's modern history.

''It's the first time there are so many'' escapees at once, he said by telephone from Rabat. He said his group had been informed of the escape but was given no details.

Authorities have carried out regular anti-terror sweeps since the Casablanca bombings, often raising concerns among human rights groups, which say that many innocent people have been targeted.

In March last year, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Casablanca cyber cafe, and investigators later uncovered an alleged plot targeting tourist sites across Morocco. In April 2007, two brothers strapped with explosives blew themselves up near the US consulate.