CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) - Just days after U.S. officials warned of possible worldwide attacks by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, a quick succession of five suicide bombings in Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, killed 31 bystanders and 10 terrorists Friday night, officials said Saturday.
There was no claim of responsibility.
The Moroccan government did not directly implicate al-Qaida, but the attacks confirmed fears that terrorists are striking lightly defended sites. The buildings targeted Friday were the Casa de Espana, a Jewish community center called the Israelite Community Circle, an old Jewish cemetery, the Belgian Consulate and a major downtown hotel.
U.S. counterterrorism officials described strong suspicions that al-Qaida was behind the attacks, noting they resembled Monday's attacks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital, that killed 34 people, including eight Americans.
"We can expect more of these," said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
There apparently was limited information pointing toward Morocco as a target. In an audiotape released in February, bin Laden described Morocco as one of several U.S. allies "ready for liberation."
Three suspects, all Moroccans, were detained Friday night, the official MAP news agency said. Interior Minister Mustapha Sahel said a wounded suicide bomber was being interrogated by police.
"The acts perpetrated in Casablanca are the work of an international network of terrorism, and Morocco is determined to crack down on it without mercy," Hassam Aourid, spokesman for Morocco's royal palace, said in a statement carried by MAP.
The strikes left a trail of devastation and stunned this Muslim kingdom on the Atlantic coast, a staunch U.S. ally.
Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the bombings "in the strongest possible terms." He also thanked Morocco for its help in fighting terrorism, saying the United States "will continue to stand together with Morocco against this threat to both our nations and all peace-loving people."
The Bush administration was offering U.S. assistance to Morocco to find those responsible, a White House official said.
"Unfortunately that is not a surprise," U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said Saturday in the Macedonian capital of Skopje. "The terrorists are still there. They are still dangerous."
Morocco has been grappling with rising Islamic militancy, and King Mohammed VI had expressed concern the U.S.-led war on Iraq could rouse the country's Islamic fundamentalist movement. In April, the kingdom put off municipal elections over fears that fundamentalists could gain ground. That decision followed the arrests of scores of suspected Muslim militants.
After the attacks in Saudi Arabia, but before the Morocco explosions, President Bush spoke in his weekly radio address of the threat posed by al-Qaida.
"The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. Our government is taking unprecedented measures to defend the homeland. And from Pakistan to the Philippines, to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al-Qaida killers."
The bombs in Casablanca wrecked parts of buildings, including the entrance to the glitzy Hotel Safir. Body parts were strewn about at some attack sites.
At least six Europeans - two Spaniards, two Italians and two French - were killed, according to the chief of medical services at the Averroes Hospital, Said Ouhalia. No U.S. citizens were reported among the dead.
The Spanish Embassy in Morocco's capital, Rabat, said the blast at the restaurant killed up to 20 people. That would make it the bloodiest of the five attacks.
Lamia Haffi, a restaurant employee, told Spanish National Radio that three attackers entered the room after slitting a security guard's throat. Then two of them detonated bombs.
"Inside, there was flesh. Flesh everywhere," she said.
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said his government did not believe it was a target and the consulate suffered "collateral damage."
Michel said a restaurant across the street from the consulate was the likely real target. The Positano restaurant is owned by a French Jew of Moroccan origin.
Owner Jean-Mark Levy said the bomb blew up in the middle of the narrow street and the consulate took most of the impact.
"We are profoundly shocked," said Serge Berdugo, president of the Council of the Jewish Community in Morocco. "This drama is a thunderbolt in a serene sky."
About 4,000 Jews, at most, live in Morocco, and the country is proud of the harmony between its Muslims and Jewish minority.
Last year, Moroccan authorities exposed an al-Qaida plot to attack U.S. and British warships in the Strait of Gibraltar. Three Saudis were given 10-year prison sentences in February.
Sahel, Morocco's interior minister, said his country would not be intimidated.
"The Kingdom of Morocco will never surrender to terrorists and will not allow anyone to disturb its security," he said.
The attacks also put other nations further on edge. In Paris, France raised the level of its security alert.
"Such events can only reinforce our common determination to battle without pause against international terrorism," French President Jacques Chirac said Saturday.
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