2003 Casablanca bombings

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2003 Casablanca bombings
Part of the Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present)
Boulevard de Paris, Casablanca.jpg
Location Casablanca, Morocco
DateMay 16, 2003
Target Western and Jewish targets
Attack type
suicide attack
Deaths45 (includes 12 terrorists) [1]
Non-fatal injuries
More than 100
Perpetrators Salafia Jihadia

The 2003 Casablanca bombings were a series of suicide bombings on May 16, 2003, in Casablanca, Morocco. 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.

Casablanca City / State in Casablanca-Settat, Morocco

Casablanca, located in the central-western part of Morocco and bordering the Atlantic Ocean, is the largest city in Morocco. It is also the largest city in the Maghreb region, as well as one of the largest and most important cities in Africa, both economically and demographically.

Morocco Country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in the Maghreb region of North West Africa with an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction.

Terrorism use of violence and intimidation against civilians in order to further a political goal

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a religious or political aim. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime or in war against non-combatants. The terms "terrorist" and "terrorism" originated during the French Revolution of the late 18th century but gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s in news reports and books covering the conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Palestine. The increased use of suicide attacks from the 1980s onwards was typified by the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.



The 14 bombers, most 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.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

The five-star Hotel Farah 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]

Jewish cemetery cemetery for Jewish people

A Jewish cemetery is a cemetery where members of the Jewish faith are buried in keeping with Jewish tradition. Cemeteries are referred to in several different ways in Hebrew, including bet kevarot, beit almin or bet olam, the bet chayyim and bet shalom.

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.

In all, 33 civilians died, along with 12 bombers. 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 (three Spanish among them) and the rest were Moroccan.

Deaths by nationality
Flag of Morocco.svg Morocco25
Flag of Spain.svg Spain4 [3]
Flag of France.svg France3
Flag of Italy.svg Italy1
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium1


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.

Mohammed VI of Morocco King of Morocco

Mohammed VI is the King of Morocco. He is a member of the Alaouite dynasty and ascended to the throne on 23 July 1999 upon the death of his father, King Hassan II.

World leaders condemned the attacks, coming on the heels of 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.

Two major bombings took place in residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2003. On 12 May 2003, 39 people were killed, and over 160 wounded when bombs went off at three compounds in Riyadh—Dorrat Al Jadawel, Al Hamra Oasis Village, and the Vinnell Corporation Compound. On 8 November, a bomb was detonated outside the Al-Mohaya housing compound west of Riyadh, killing at least 17 people and wounding 122.

Homeland Security Advisory System Terrorism alert warning system

In the United States, the Homeland Security Advisory System was a color-coded terrorism threat advisory scale. The different levels triggered specific actions by federal agencies and state and local governments, and they affected the level of security at some airports and other public facilities. It was often called the "terror alert level" by the U.S. media. The system was replaced on April 27, 2011, with a new system called the National Terrorism Advisory System.

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 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 didn't escape in 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 which alleged that Kattani was innocent. [12] [13] Omar al-Haddouchi was also jailed for inspiring the bombings and pardoned in 2011.

See also

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  1. "9 Imprisoned For Casablanca Blasts Escape". The New York Times. Agence France-Presse. 8 April 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
  2. Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. https://doi.org/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.