Morocco has determined that Al Qaida ordered and helped
plan the May 16 suicide strikes in Casablanca in which more than 40 people
Moroccan officials and government sources said Al Qaida sponsored the
suicide strikes as one of a series of attacks on pro-U.S. regimes in the
Middle East. They said the May 16 Casablanca attacks were linked to the car
bombings in Riyad four days earlier.
Moroccan security sources said an investigation of the May 16 suicide
strikes has produced evidence that the attacks were ordered by Al Qaida
operative Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Al Zarqawi, a Jordanian national wanted for
the assassination of a U.S. diplomat in Amman in 2002, was believed to have
fled Baghdad for Iran during the first days of the U.S.-led war in March.
| Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Al Zarqawi
The assertion of an Al Qaida link to the Casablanca attack came as Saudi
Arabia reported the killing of its leading insurgency fugitive, Middle East Newsline reported. The Saudi
national, identified as Turki Nasser Mishaal Al Dandani, was said to have
headed Al Qaida's network in Saudi Arabia.
The sources said Al Qaida had planned the Casablanca attack as the first
of several suicide strikes in Moroccan cities. They said as many as 60
suicide attackers were recruited and trained to blow themselves up in such
cities as Marrakesh, Sweir and Aghadir.
Moroccan authorities have reported the arrest of two suspected Islamic
insurgents, one of them said to have been linked to the Al Qaida attacks in
Riyad. Moroccan prosecutor Hassan Hufai said on Thursday that one of those
detained was a teacher connected with whom he identified as Ahmed Karim.
Karim was arrested on charges of being part of the Al Qaida cell in Saudi
Arabia and involved in the Riyad attacks.
Hufai said Karim ordered the two Moroccan nationals to travel to Saudi
Arabia and undergo instruction in bomb production and weapons training. The
prosecutor said Karim sent an e-mail message to the Moroccans that proposed
the establishment of an Islamic insurgency network in the North African
The Moroccan arrests marked the first official link between the
Casablanca and Riyad bombings. Earlier, Moroccan and Saudi officials said
they were examining a connection, but did not have sufficient evidence to
make a determination.
In Riyad, the Saudi Interior Ministry said Al Dandani was one of four Al
Qaida insurgents killed during a shootout with Saudi special forces on
Thursday in the northern province of Jawf near the Iraqi border. The others
killed were identified as two Saudis and two Kuwaitis.
Al Dandani was cited as the No. 1 fugitive in Saudi Arabia and believed
to have headed Al Qaida's network in the kingdom. He was said to have fought
with Al Qaida in Afghanistan in early 2002 and returned to Saudi Arabia five
months later. Over the last six weeks, security forces have arrested about
130 suspected Al Qaida operatives as part of the search for Al Dandani.
Last week, Al Dandani's chief aide, Ali Abdul Rahman Al Ghamdi,
surrendered to Saudi authorities in Riyad. Al Ghamdi was regarded as the No.
2 Al Qaida fugitive sought by the kingdom.
The ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press
Agency that five insurgents had taken refuge in the home of a mosque
preacher. During the shootout, three other men Ñ two Saudis and a Syrian Ñ
were captured, the ministry said. They were accused of attempting to smuggle
the Al Qaida insurgents out of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi opposition sources said authorities obtained information nearly
two weeks ago that Al Dandani was hiding in Jawf. They said Saudi forces
raided a series of homes owned by those believed to be connected to either
Al Qaida supporters or friends of Al Dandani.
The London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia said Saudi
security forces, backed by helicopters, attacked a mosque where Al Dandani
was hiding. The opposition group said in a statement that many of the
worshippers were still in the mosque when Saudi forces stormed the building.
The group said five Saudi officers were killed and seven others were wounded
in the battle.
The Saudi news agency said security forces allowed the preacher, his
wife, children, servant as well as a suspected Al Qaida member to surrender
before the building was stormed. The agency said a Saudi officer was injured
in the operation.