Pregnant Israeli, husband are killed in Morocco blast

Michal and Messod Wizman were visiting relatives; Their son, 3, was safe with his grandparents.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
April 29, 2011 05:02
3 minute read.
Scene of Moroccan cafe bombing

Scene of Moroccan cafe bombing 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal)

An explosion that killed 15 people and wounded 20 in Marrakesh was triggered by a remote control device, not a suicide bomber as previous reports suggested, France’s interior minister said in an interview published on Saturday.

The blast ripped through a popular cafe overlooking Marrakesh’s Jamaa el- Fnaa square at lunchtime on Thursday.

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Western security analysts attributed the attack to Islamists bent on ruining Morocco’s tourism industry.

Two locals at the scene said they saw a suicide bomber. An Arab news website said the attack was committed by a suicide bomber who had recently got out of prison. But Moroccan officials have not said who was responsible.

A Jewish couple was among those killed, it emerged on Friday.

Messod and Michal Wizman, 32 and 30, respectively, who had been visiting Messod’s side of the family in Morocco for Pessah, were both fatally wounded in the attack, officials confirmed.

“The Jewish community in Casablanca is very tight-knit,” Morocco’s Chabad representative was quoted as saying on a Chabad website. “The whole community came to the Wizman home in Casablanca this morning to cry with the parents over this terrible tragedy.”

The couple’s three-year-old son David Yosef was safely with his grandparents at the time of the explosion.

The Wizmans had lived in Shanghai for four years where they were active members of the Jewish community.

Michal Wizman, who was born in Israel, was reportedly nine-months pregnant at the time of her death. A physiotherapist, she was one of the attendants at the Shanghai Jewish Center’s ritual bath and was a member of the local day school’s parents committee.

Meanwhile on Friday, a Moroccan official said his country was determined to restore confidence in its vital tourism industry in the wake of the attack.

“To go to a country as a tourist and return dead is a terrible thing,” Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said while on a visit to Madrid. “We are going to work very hard so that this does not have an impact on tourism in Marrakesh.”

Mezouar said the government had no information on who might have been behind the attack.

But the French interior minister said the attack was not carried out by a suicide bomber.

“Contrary to what was being said earlier, there was no suicide bomber,” Claude Gueant told weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. “Somebody dropped a bag on the ground and the bomb was detonated remotely.”

The bomb contained nails, ammonium nitrate and a high explosive called TATP that was also used in a series of bombings on the Paris underground system in 1995, he said.

Moroccan officials said on Friday that they had identified several foreigners among the dead, including two French citizens, two Canadians and a Dutch national.

Gueant said seven of the 15 dead were French nationals but that the attack was not aimed at France.

“I have spoken to my Moroccan counterpart who explained that identification was difficult because some of the bodies were very badly damaged,” he said.

“The toll for now is 15 dead, of which seven French people, and about 10 injured, including two very badly wounded.”

Moroccan officials said previously that 23 were wounded.

France has been on high alert for a terrorist attack over the past year after Islamists took five French people hostage in the Sahel region of Africa and al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden singled out France in an audio recording.

Stringent anti-terrorism laws have helped to prevent an attack on French soil since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. But Islamists are increasingly targeting French assets abroad, particularly in Africa.

Al-Qaida’s north African branch released messages last week from four French hostages it kidnapped last September in Niger, calling for France to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan – repeating bin Laden’s demands.

Asked if France was targeted by the attack on Thursday, Gueant said: “Nothing suggests it.”

But, he added, the attackers were aware of Marrakesh’s popularity with French tourists.


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