U.S. Shuts Consulate in Casablanca After Bombings
RABAT, Morocco – The U.S. closed its consulate in Casablanca indefinitely on Sunday to review security a day after a suicide bombing beside the building, the U.S. Embassy said.
A second bomber on Saturday detonated his explosive belt in the same street, just yards from the American Language Center where English is taught. A woman was injured in one of the blasts but only the bombers died.
The attacks were Morocco's first since five simultaneous homicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003 which killed 33 people and a dozen bombers.
The blasts in Morocco and twin car-bombings in neighboring Algeria on Wednesday that killed 30 people suggest that Islamic extremism is rekindling across North Africa.
U.S. Embassy officials could not be reached for further comment on the closure, announced in a brief statement.
Moroccan authorities identified the bombers in Saturday's blasts as brothers Mohamed and Omar Maha. A third suspect was arrested near the scene carrying an explosive belt matching those used by the bombers, according to an Interior Ministry official who, citing policy, asked not to be named.
Authorities say the suspects belonged to a larger group behind an Internet cafe bombing in a Casablanca slum last month. That incident sparked a police manhunt to track down other members of the group, which authorities said planned to attack police stations, port and tourist sites in the northern city.
On Tuesday, police cornered three members of the group in a working-class neighborhood of Casablanca, shooting one dead while the remaining three killed themselves in suicide blasts that also killed a policeman.
On Saturday, police announced they had arrested the alleged leader of the group and uncovered hideouts used for bomb-making, but did not say when the arrest had taken place.
The region's most organized group, Algeria's Salafist Group for Call and Combat, has formally allied with Al Qaeda and in January changed its name to Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa.