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April 30, 2011

Sixteen killed in Marrakech, Morocco bomb blast

Sixteen killed in Marrakech, Morocco bomb blast

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

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Jemaa el-Fnaa square, location of the café
Image: AlexandrDmitri.

At least sixteen people are reported killed in a terrorist bombing in the city of Marrakech, Morocco. The bombing occurred in the busy Argana café before lunch time, Thursday. The café, located in the popular Jemaa el-Fnaa square, is within what is known as the old city. The square, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the country’s top tourist attractions, draws many foreign visitors.

Early reports blamed a gas can catching fire. Witness reports indicate the blast destroyed the entire second floor of the café, blasting off the terrace and roof demolishing the front of the building.

Photographer Tarek Bozid reported, “Everything was covered in blood. The scene was horrifying. Tables were broken and glass was shattered.”

Marrakech highlighted on a map of Morroco.

Ten of the victims were foreign, including six French nationals and one Briton. Half of the dead are reported to be women; and, at least 20 other people were critically wounded including a number foreigners. Two Swiss nationals, two Russians, two Tunisians and two Dutch tourists are reported to be amongst those injured.

Although the blast was at first considered an accident, the Interior Ministry confirmed it was an intentional act. “Analysis of the early evidence collected at the site of the blast confirms the theory of an attack,” he said in a statement issued through the official Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) news agency.

Medics said nails, often used in suicide bombs, were found in the bodies of most victims.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has expressed his outrage, considering it to be “heinous, cruel and cowardly”. The act has been condemned by leaders internationally. French foreign minister Alain Juppe stated he is unaware of any particular threat to France in Morroco, once a French protectorate.

This is the first major attack on Morocco since the 2003 Casablanca bombings, which killed 45 and injured more than 100.


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August 8, 2010

Poll: Arabs discouraged by US policies, back nuclear-armed Iran

Poll: Arabs discouraged by US policies, back nuclear-armed Iran

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

A new poll by Zogby International and the University of Maryland has found that Arabs in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are discouraged by US policies, have little confidence in US president Barack Obama and for the first time, a majority of poll respondents support a nuclear-armed Iran.

The poll results are a “stark contrast” from last year’s results, according to USA Today. Last year 51% of respondents were “optimistic” about US policy in the Middle East; this year only 16% are optimistic and 64% are “discouraged”. Also, two-thirds of poll respondents disapproved of the job Barack Obama is doing. Last year, his approval ratings were high.

Though most poll respondents still say that they suspect that Iran is attempting to get weapons of mass destruction, for the first time a majority say that it would be a good thing for Iran to get them. University of Maryland Professor Shibley Telhami says that most Arabs think that Iran won’t use the weapons and the professor, who headed the poll, also said that “when [Arabs are] optimistic about American foreign policy, they are much tougher on Iran. So a year ago, in 2009, when you had a majority being optimistic about American policy in the Middle East, only 29 percent said Iran having nuclear weapons would be positive for the Middle East. This year, when you have two-thirds being pessimistic about American foreign policy, you have a larger percentage saying maybe it will be better if Iran has nuclear weapons.”

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The new poll also reveals that the United States and Israel are also viewed as bigger threats to the Middle East than Iran.

Telhami also said that “what this poll reveals is a backlash against the United States, reflecting the loss of hope that people had in what they thought were to be the policies of the new President Obama. It’s really people venting by supporting ‘the enemy of my enemy.'”

The poll also found that most watch Al Jazeera for their international news, and that over half of the respondents also watch American or European movies, shows or music videos daily.


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March 30, 2010

Body of Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan found in Moroccan lake

Body of Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan found in Moroccan lake

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

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Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

The body of Emirati Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been found in a lake near Rabat, Morocco. Sheikh Ahmed had been missing since his glider plane crashed four days ago.

Sheikh Ahmed was the managing director of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority at the time of his death. He was the son of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and although he was the brother of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed he was not in the immediate line for succession.

The Spanish pilot survived the crash and is at the hospital in stable condition. Divers from several countries including Morocco, France, Spain, the United States, and the UAE all helped search for the missing Sheikh. The search had become more complicated after heavy rainfall over the weekend.

Sheikh Ahmed’s funeral will be held on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi.



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January 8, 2010

Moroccan court sentences fourteen to jail on terror charges

Moroccan court sentences fourteen to jail on terror charges

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Friday, January 8, 2010

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Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer region
Image: Darwinek.

A court in Salé sentenced fourteen members of Fath Al Andalous (Conquest of Andalusia) to jail yesterday for planning attacks against targets in Morocco. The radical group reportedly associates itself with expulsion of Muslims from the Andalusia region of Spain during the fifteenth century.

According to state agency Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), the court sentenced leader Rachid Zerbani to fifteen years in prison and fined him 500,000 dirhams (€44,175), and the remaining thirteen to four to ten years for “setting up a criminal gang to plot and carry out terror acts aimed at disturbing public order through intimidation and violence, financing terrorism, manufacturing and possessing explosives, undermining the sacred values, and holding unauthorized public meetings.”

The group, which according to MAP had links with similar organisations in Algeria, Mauritania, France, Spain, and countries in the Middle East, had plotted to attack tourist locations in Agadir as well as a military barracks in Laayoune, the principal city in the Western Sahara region. According to the police, the members had obtained electronics and chemicals used in bombs.

Since the 2003 Casablanca bombings, in which 45 people died, the country has broken up over sixty similar groups, with more than 2,000 tried and jailed.



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December 7, 2009

Guinean military leader in \’favourable\’ condition after attempted assassination

Guinean military leader in ‘favourable’ condition after attempted assassination

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Monday, December 7, 2009

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Morocco said earlier today that Guinea’s military ruler, Moussa Dadis Camara, has undergone successful surgery for gunshot wounds sustained on Thursday in an apparent assassination attempt. Guinea’s military government is offering a reward for the capture of the former head of the presidential guard whose men are accused of carrying out the attack.

File photo of Captain Camara

The inspector of Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces’ health services said that Camara has had successful surgery for head trauma. In a statement issued by Morocco’s official press agency, Dr. Ali Abrouq said Camara’s condition is “not worrying.”

“The current health condition of the Guinean president does not inspire concern,” Abrouq noted in a statement. “The result of the operation is favorable.”

Camara flew to Morocco on Friday after being shot the day before by men loyal to his former aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Aboubacar Sidiki Diakite, who is also known as Toumba. Toumba escaped the attack, and is still at large with a group of the presidential guard.

Harouna Kone, a spokesman for the junta, commented that Camara should be able to return to Guinea by Wednesday. “The president is doing very well and we expecting that he will come back maybe on Wednesday […] he is in the Royal Hospital of Rabat, and I think that everything is well there. He called last night and [spoke] with his minister of communication and they discussed about something,” he said, as quoted by the Voice of America news agency.

Security forces, meanwhile, are patrolling Guinea’s borders in search of Toumba, and the government is offering a reward for information leading to his capture.

Guinea’s vice-president and defense minister, General Sekouba Konate, became the interim leader following the attempted assassination.

Thursday’s shooting followed an argument between Toumba and Camara about who should take responsibility for the killing of opposition demonstrators two months ago. Witnesses say Toumba gave the order for the presidential guard to open fire on people protesting Camara’s expected presidential candidacy.

Local human rights groups said that at least 157 people were killed on September 28; the military put the number at 57 people.



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December 6, 2009

Guinean junta head in \’stable\’ condition after shooting, soldiers searching for gunman

Filed under: Africa,Archived,Crime and law,Morocco,Politics and conflicts — admin @ 5:00 am

Guinean junta head in ‘stable’ condition after shooting, soldiers searching for gunman

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guinea
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File photograph of Captain Camara, taken in August 2009

Soldiers in Guinea are searching for the former head of the presidential guard whose men are accused of shooting and wounding the country’s military leader, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. Camara is being treated at a hospital in Morocco, where he is reportedly in “stable” condition.

The country’s security forces are searching for former aide-de-camp Lieutenant Aboubacar Sidiki Diakite, whose men opened fire on military ruler late on Thursday, according to officials.

The former aide, who is also known as Toumba, escaped after the assassination attempt and is still at large with a small group of the presidential guard. Toumba has been identified by several witnesses as the man who gave the order to open fire on opposition demonstrators two months ago.

In a telephone call, Diakite commented that he was located “in a safe place” within Guinea. “I am in Guinea, I am free to move about,” he said, as quoted by the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.

Meanwhile, spokesman Idrissa Cherif said to the AFP that Camara’s life was not in danger, and that the wound was not life-threatening. “He is very well. We have spoken on the telephone, there are no problems and his condition is stable,” Cherif said, adding that “the bullet did not penetrate his head but grazed it.”



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November 22, 2009

Saudi Arabia fears Hajj swine flu outbreak as four pilgrims die

Saudi Arabia fears Hajj swine flu outbreak as four pilgrims die

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

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Millions make the annual Mecca pilgrimage.
Image: Ali Mansuri.

As the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca gets underway, Saudi Arabian authorities have expressed concern swine flu could impact pilgrims. Four, with underlying health issues, have already died.

Two men and a woman in their seventies and a seventeen-year-old girl have died, according to the Health Ministry. The men from India and Sudan, the older woman from Morocco, and the teen from Nigeria. None were vaccinated against the virus.

One died in Mecca, the others in Medina. All had conditions including cancer and respiratory ailments. The World Health Organisation puts the current swine flu death toll at 6,750. Four more people are in Saudi hospitals in critical condition and a further twelve are recovering in hospital.

Each year around three million make the pilgrimage. And, Saudi authorities are concerned about the possible spread of the virus. At least one pilgrimage to Mecca is deemed mandatory for every Muslim capable of doing so. Fifteen thousand extra medical staff are deployed, ports and airports screen incomers with thermal cameras, and hundreds of extra hospital beds have been set aside. Visa requirements specify only those vaccinated against the flu strain can apply.

In September, Egypt forbade hundreds of Muslims from leaving Cairo for the Hajj after an Egyptian woman returning from a more minor pilgrimage last July became the first swine flu fatality in both Africa and the Middle East. For Ramadan, pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia was banned by Iran for the same reason.



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February 23, 2009

Guantanamo captive returned to the United Kingdom

Guantanamo captive returned to the United Kingdom

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Monday, February 23, 2009

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Guantanamo captive Benyam Mohammed was returned to the United Kingdom on February 23, 2009 after years of negotiation. Benyam Mohammed’s case stirred controversy for years. He was a legal resident of the United Kingdom who had come to the UK as a refugee from Ethiopia when he was a child. He explained that he had traveled to Afghanistan in an attempt to quit a drug habit he acquired in the UK.

He claimed that all the very serious allegations that he reportedly confessed to were extracted while he was being tortured. He had claimed that he wasn’t held in military custody when he was first captured, stating instead that the CIA had temporarily transferred him to a brutal prison in Morocco where the interrogation techniques included mutilating his genitals. He later spent time in the CIA’s network of secret interrogation centres including “The Dark Prison”.

A Camp Delta recreation and exercise area at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The detention block is shown with sunshades drawn on December 3, 2002. Image: DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Stephen Lewald, U.S. Army

The Bush administration eventually stopped denying that he had spent considerable time in CIA custody prior to his transfer to Guantanamo. They continued to deny he had been tortured. He faced the allegation that he had plotted with José Padilla and Majid Khan to explode a dirty bomb — a radiological weapon — in the United States.

He was one of the two dozen Guantanamo captives to face charges before a Guantanamo military commission. He was charged twice in late 2005 before a presidentially authorized commission. Two years after the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the original presidentially authorized military commissions he was charged again before a military commission authorized by the Military Commissions Act.

His lawyers initiated legal proceedings through the United Kingdom’s justice system to compel the UK government to release to them its role in his detention. The Office of Military Commissions dropped the charges against him in October 2008. Benyam Mohammed was reported to have engaged in a hunger strike as a protest during the last months of his detention. His lawyers claimed his weight had dropped to a level where he was just “skin and bones”, fainted during their meetings with him, and that his health was at serious risk.

All of the British citizens held in Guantanamo were repatriated by 2005. Seven long term British residents were not returned to the UK. Initially it was the British position that they had no responsibility for individuals who weren’t citizens. When British resident Bisher al-Rawi’s story that he had been an MI5 informant started to be confirmed, there was public pressure for his return.

In 2006, a frustrated member of the team negotiating Al Rawi’s return leaked that the process had become stalled because the Americans were insisting that they would only release Al Rawi if the United Kingdom was prepared to accept all the former British residents and keep them under round the clock surveillance. After his repatriation to the United Kingdom Mohammed spent a few hours being debriefed by British security officials before he was set free. Three former British residents remain in detention in Guantanamo: Shaker Aamer, Ahmed Beltacha and Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed.



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January 20, 2009

Parajet Skycar expedition takes off from London to Timbuktu

Parajet Skycar expedition takes off from London to Timbuktu

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Waterman Aerobile #6, seen here in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, was an earlier attempt at a flying car.

Two explorers have set off from Knightsbridge, London Wednesday morning (0900 GMT) in a propeller-powered dune buggy heading for the Sahara. Giles Cardozo, age 29, from Dorset, with chief pilot and expedition leader Neil Laughton, age 45, an ex-SAS officer, will fly and drive the amazing two-seater vehicle more than 6,000-km (3,750-miles) to fabled Timbuktu on February 20.

“I just can’t wait to see their faces when we fly in and start playing football with them. I don’t think they will be able to believe somebody in a flying car has just visited them,” ‘extreme golfer’ Mr Laughton said before the departure. Timbuktu (Timbuctoo; Koyra Chiini: Tumbutu; French: Tombouctou) is an isolated city in Tombouctou Region, in the West African nation of Mali. They will traverse Europe and Africa about 42 days to arrive at the city in Mali, West Africa before returning home via Senegal.

The home-made 450-kilogram Skycar has been designed by Cardozo in just 18 months. It is the world’s first road legal bio fuelled flying car. It is a four cylinders modified Rage Motorsport off-road racing buggy which was approved by the government last month. It runs on bioethanol and is powered by a modified 140bhp Yamaha R1 superbike engine with a lightweight automatic continuously variable transmission from a snowmobile.

The team invested about £250,000 ($380,000) to make the 1000cc engine Skycar desert-proof. In its maiden voyage, the flying car will be escorted by up to 13 people convoy including an eight-wheel truck, two Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4s and several motorbikes. It has left London’s Sheraton Park Tower hotel, heading through the capital to Dunsfold airfield in Surrey.

Locator Map of Timbuktu city in Tombouctou Region, in the West African nation of Mali.

The team had initially planned to take the air route across the English Channel, but the 35km flight was vetoed by aviation authorities. Skycar is required by law to obtain a license from Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), including a permit from the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA). Skycar spokeswoman, Charlie Bell, however clarified that the team was “in liaison with the CAA and they are looking to finalize the permit,” adding that it is in order for the rest of the trip.

The Skycar will thereafter fly over the high-altitude Pyrenees near Andorra, and would cross over the 14-km (nine-mile) Strait of Gibraltar. The prepared journey also includes the route through Mauritania, Atlas Mountains in Morocco and into Mali. It will further cross the harsh environment of Sahara’s remote “Rub’ al Khali” (empty quarter), for up to two weeks amid real fears of terrorist attacks.

The expedition will not have an easy task, especially since the Skycar will be tested to the limits amid punishing operating environments and weather conditions. “Clearly the reliability of the car is crucial,” said Mr Laughton. “We’re going to have to cope with wind chill temperatures as low as -30 deg C and blistering heat of up to 50 deg C. But it’s been fully tested at a secret location and it 100 per cent works,” he added.

The Parajet Skycar is a prototype flying car. It was developed by British paramotor manufacturer Parajet. The flying car utilizes a paramotor and a parafoil attached to a modified dune buggy to achieve sustained level flight. Should the engine fail, the vehicle can glide back to the ground. Should the canopy rip, an emergency reserve parachute would be deployed. It requires three minutes to convert it from a car to an aircraft. The prototype runs on biodiesel and is fully road-legal.

In 2004 British engineer Giles Cardozo, a paramotor manufacturer, has invented a fan-powered flying car to prove the Skycar is real and works. “I started making a paramotor on wheels that you sit on and take off and it suddenly occurred to me, ‘Why not just have a car that does everything?’” Cardozo said. His Wiltshire-based company Parajet built the paramotor that the adventurer Bear Grylls did fly near Everest in 2008. In 1998, Grylls, aged 23, became the youngest British to ascend Mount Everest. In May 2007, Grylls and Cardozo departed from Pheriche, about 32 kilometres south of Mount Everest.

Cquote1.svg I thought this would be an interesting challenge… Timbuktu is an iconic and quirky destination. Cquote2.svg

—–Neil Laughton

Cardozo has claimed he may finally have made it. “I’ve been dreaming about making flying cars since I was a boy, thinking about all the ways it could be done and seeing how all the other people in the world have done it wrong. No one’s ever made one that really does work that you can go out and buy. But here’s the ultimate solution: it’s cheap, it’s safe, it works, all the technology’s already there. So I pushed ahead and thought, ‘We’ve got to do it’,” he said.

If the Skycar becomes successful, Cardozo’s company plans a limited production with a selling price of £35,000 to £40,000 for a standard model and £60,000 for a high-performance sports version. “It will be a serious aircraft but also a proper road machine, with acceleration to match your average sports car,” says Cardozo. “I’m not going to sell millions of them but even if we sell 20 we’ll be laughing,” he added.

The explorers, with the aid of sponsors, supporters and benefactor Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet OBE (known as ‘Ranulph (Ran) Fiennes’), have aimed to raise more than £100,000 for some charities including an African orphanage.



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May 24, 2008

Seven Moroccans killed in bus crash in central France

Filed under: Archived,Europe,France,Morocco — admin @ 5:00 am

Seven Moroccans killed in bus crash in central France

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

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A bus crash in France’s Loire Valley has left seven of the Moroccan passengers dead. 22 of the 32 on board were injured, four critically, after the bus smashed into a concrete pillar on the A10 near Blois in the small hours of yesterday morning.

The bus had departed Tiznit in South Morocco on Wednesday and was headed to the Parisian suburb of Les Mureaux. It had been hired by Aziz, a French company that provides buses to tourists and small traders heading between France and Morocco.

Media images show the vehicle’s front end stuck several feet up the pilar, with the roof trapped against the top of the bridge it supported by the pillar. The entire wreck is left leaning at about a forty degree angle back towards the road, and has left the road at a fairly steep angle directly into the pillar. The remains of a trailer it was towing can be seen still attached at the rear of the coach. Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau, who visited the scene shortly after the accident, said that “The incredible state of the bus showed that the impact was extremely violent.”

The pictures showed the bus was in the livery of travel company Labat.

The French Interior Ministry took the rare step of activating an emergency plan to ensure rapid response from large numbers of rescuers and resources. The scene was attended by four helicopters, 140 firefighters and 25 police officers, who had to free multiple victims from the wreck. The A10 was closed off.

Six died immediately, and the seventh victim died shortly afterwards. All the deceased were adults, and included one of the two drivers, the other of whom was seriously injured. It is unclear which was driving at the time.

Investigators believe no other vehicles were involved, but the exact circumstances remain unclear. “It looks like a loss of control. Is this linked to a mechanical problem, drowsiness or a totally different cause?” Bussereau said at the scene. His ministry’s accident investigation bureau will conduct a major investigation inquiry, and a separate investigation will be launched by local prosecuters.

One possible cause is that the driver fell asleep at the wheel. Investigators are also examining the bus to try to determine any sign of mechanical trouble. There was good weather in the region of the town of Suevres, where the accident occurred, and very little traffic was using the road at the time, thought to be around 2.50am (0050 GMT).

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has announced he will personally pay for care of the injured and repatriation of those killed. He also asked the ambassador to France to pass on his condolences.



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