Morocco Government Says Cafe Blast That Killed 15 Was Bomb Attack

The explosion killed 15 people, including 10 foreigners, six of whom were French on Thursday in a busy cafe in Moroccan tourist destination of Marrakesh; officials have not said if they suspect the involvement of Islamic militants.

Evidence collected from the scene of an explosion on Thursday in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh confirms it was a bomb attack, the interior ministry said.

"Analysis of the early evidence collected at the site of the blast that occurred on Thursday at a cafe in Marrakesh confirms the theory of an attack," the ministry said in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.

An explosion killed 15 people, including foreigners, on Thursday in a busy cafe in the Moroccan tourist destination of Marrakesh.

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The blast ripped through the second story of a cafe overlooking Marrakesh's Jamaa el-Fnaa square, a spot that is usually bustling with foreign tourists and local vendors.

Officials did not say if they suspected the involvement of Islamist militants. The militants' last big attack was a series of suicide bombings in Morocco's commercial capital, Casablanca, in 2003 in which more than 45 people were killed.

Two people in Marrakesh told Reuters the explosion was the work of a suicide bomber, but there was no immediate confirmation of this.

"I heard a massive blast. The first and second floors of the building were destroyed," said one local woman, who did not want to be identified. "Some witnesses said they have seen a man carrying a bag entering the cafe before the blast occurred."

"People are panicking. This is a terrorist act and it will affect the economy and tarnish the country's image. Local investors are selling," said a trader on the bourse.

A Reuters photographer at the scene of the blast said he saw rescue workers pulling dismembered bodies from the wreckage of the Argana cafe.

The roof over the restaurant's upstairs terrace had been ripped off by the force of the explosion and pieces of plaster and electrical wires hung from the ceiling.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement saying the explosion killed 14 people, including an undisclosed number of foreigners, and injured another 20 people.

Moroccan TV later issued a statement saying that 10 of those killed in the explosion were foreigners, six of which were French.

The blast is likely to hurt Morocco's tourism trade -- a major source of revenue -- which is already struggling to recover from the effects of the global downturn.

"Marrakesh is the main tourist destination in Morocco and Argana Cafe has been one of the most popular cafes in the square," said a Frenchman who owns a restaurant in the city.

"You can't find a more emblematic target than Jamaa el-Fna square ... With this attack and amid the worrying unrest in the region, tourism will hit the doldrums for some time," said the businessman, who did not want his name published.