2003 Casablanca bombings

2003 Casablanca bombings
Part of the Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)
Boulevard de Paris, Casablanca.jpg
LocationCasablanca, Morocco
DateMay 16, 2003
TargetWestern and Jewish targets
Attack type
Suicide attack
Deaths45 (includes 12 terrorists)[1]
InjuredMore than 100
PerpetratorsSalafia Jihadia

The 2003 Casablanca bombings were a series of suicide bombings on May 16, 2003, in Casablanca, Morocco. This same year, Adil Charkaoui, a Casablanca-based resident was issued a Security Certificate in Montreal, Canada, charged with supporting terrorism, and rumours allege he may have played a financial role in the bombings. The attacks were the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country's history. Forty-five people were killed in the attacks (33 victims and 12 suicide bombers). The suicide bombers came from the shanty towns of Sidi Moumen, a poor suburb of Casablanca.


The 14 bombers, most of whom were between 20 and 23 years old, bombed four places on the night of May 16, 2003. In the deadliest attack, bombers wearing explosives knifed a guard at the "Casa de España" restaurant, a Spanish-owned eatery in the city. They blew themselves up inside the building, killing 20 people, many of them Muslims dining and playing bingo.[citation needed]

The five-star Hotel Farah [simple] was bombed next, killing a guard and a porter. Another bomber killed three passersby as he attempted to bomb a Jewish cemetery. He was 150 yards (140 m) away from the cemetery and likely lost, so he blew up by a fountain. Two additional bombers attacked a Jewish community center, but killed no one because the building was closed and empty. It would have been packed the next day.[2]

Another bomber attacked a Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, and another blew up near the Belgian consulate which is located meters away from the restaurant, killing two police officers.[citation needed]

In all, 33 civilians died, along with 12 bombers.[citation needed] Two bombers were arrested before they could carry out attacks. More than 100 people were injured; 97 of them were Muslims. Eight of the dead were Europeans and the rest were Moroccan.

Deaths by nationality
Country Number
 Morocco 25
 Spain 4[3]
 France 3
 Italy 1
 Belgium 1


A large demonstration was organized through the streets of Casablanca. Tens of thousands marched, carrying banners such as "Say No to Terrorism". They shouted "Down with Hate" and "United against Terrorism".

Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, toured the bombing sites and was cheered by crowds of people. Moroccan authorities said in May 2004 that they had arrested 2,000 people in connection with the attacks, and began to put them on trial.[citation needed]

World leaders condemned the attacks, coming four days after the Riyadh compound bombings. In response to that attack and the Casablanca attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the terror threat level to Orange.[citation needed]

Salafia Jihadia, an offshoot of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and believed to have al-Qaeda links, is suspected of sending out the bombers. On March 19, 2004, Belgian police arrested a suspect wanted by the Moroccan government in connection with the bombings.[4] In December 2004, a man named Hasan al-Haski, charged in the 2004 Madrid bombings, was questioned over his links to the Casablanca bombings and was suspected to have helped plan them.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was believed to have ordered the bombings. He was killed in an airstrike on June 7, 2006.[5][6]

A number[specify] of Muslims were subsequently convicted of bombings. In April 2008 nine of the prisoners tunneled their way out of prison. Abderrahim Mahtade, who represents a prisoners’ advocacy group, said the fugitives had escaped from the Kenitra prison, north of Rabat, after dawn prayers. He said one of the nine had been sentenced to death, six to life imprisonment and two to 20 years.[7]

Saad bin Laden was suspected of direct involvement in the bombings.[8] However, he was under house arrest in Iran at the time and did not escape until 2008.[9][10] He was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2009.[11]

Hassan al-Kattani, having been convicted of inspiring the attacks in 2003, was pardoned in 2011 after several hunger strikes and criticisms from human rights groups who alleged that Kattani was innocent.[12][13] Omar al-Haddouchi was also jailed for inspiring the bombings and pardoned in 2011.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "9 Imprisoned For Casablanca Blasts Escape". The New York Times. Agence France-Presse. 8 April 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  2. ^ [1] Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Jordán, Javier; Horsburgh, Nicola (2006). "Spain and Islamist Terrorism: Analysis of the Threat and Response 1995–2005". Mediterranean Politics. 11 (2): 209–229. doi:10.1080/13629390600682933.
  4. ^ "washingtonpost.com: Madrid Probe Turns to Islamic Cell in Morocco". The Washington Post. 21 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Report: 5 others Moroccans sought in Spain bombing". USA Today. 16 March 2004.
  6. ^ Filkins, Dexter; Burns, John F. (11 June 2006). "At Site of Attack on Zarqawi, All That's Left Are Questions". The New York Times.
  7. ^ France-Presse, Agence (8 April 2008). "Morocco: 9 Imprisoned for Casablanca Blasts Escape". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Farah, Douglas; Priest, Dana (14 October 2003). "Bin Laden Son Plays Key Role in Al Qaeda". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ http://www.aawsat.net/2009/12/article55252427
  10. ^ http://www.aawsat.net/2010/03/article55251341
  11. ^ "Bin Laden son 'probably killed'". BBC News. 23 July 2009.
  12. ^ Morocco king pardons jailed Islamist leaders at Morocco World News. Reuters reporting in Rabat, February 5, 2012.
  13. ^ Mohamed Saadouni, Morocco pursues salafist reconciliation for Magharebia. May 18, 2012.

External links

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