Thursday, April 28, 2011

BREAKING NEWS - Blast in Marrakech Cafe

According to a Reuters photographer who witnessed the incident earlier today, a blast hurt several people in the Argana Cafe in Marrakesh. The latest reports say that at least 14 people have been killed. The blast took place around 11.55 am. The cause of the blast is still to be clarified.

The scene outside the Argana Cafe

The first response from an official source said the blast appeared to have been caused by gas canisters catching fire inside or beneath the Argana Cafe, in the main Jamaa el-Fna square. The cafe is a popular stopping place with tourists.

A correspondent for the Pan-Arabic television station, Arabiya, reported the incident. Members of Moroccan security forces stated, "We are investigating the possibility that the explosion of a gas tank in the Marrakesh cafe might be an act of terrorism." .

Investigators begin the grim task

A telephone operator at the local emergency services said the explosion appeared to be have been caused by a concentration of gas in the basement of the building. The operator was not authorized to speak to the media. He also declined to give the number of casualties, saying emergency teams were still at the site.

The Reuters photographer said rescue services were pulling casualties from the cafe.

Once security officers had arrived at the site, the story took on a more sinister tone and Morocco's interior ministry said the explosion appeared to be a "criminal act", according to the state news agency MAP.

The Argana before the incident

In a report from Associated Press, a French official in Morocco confirmed there were several casualties in the explosion. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to government policy.

Witnesses described chaos and panic on the busy square in the Marrakech, a popular tourist destination known for its snake charmers, fire breathers and its old medina. The explosion was first reported at 11:57 a.m local time.

"There was a huge bang, and lots of smoke went up, there was debris raining down from the sky. Hundreds of people were running in panic, some towards the cafe, some away from the square. The whole front of the cafe is blown away," said Andy Birnie,a North Londoner on his honeymoon in Marrakesh.

Reports say that 20 tourists from a number of countries are among those injured in the blast.

"The first collected clues show that this is a criminal act"- MAP

The View from Fez will update this story as news comes to hand.

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