PARIS – Islamic militants behind the deadly suicide bombings in Casablanca were financed by terror leader Osama bin Laden, according to the head of Morocco’s security forces.
In a rare interview in the weekend editions the French daily Le Figaro, Gen. Hamidou Laanigri discussed details of his investigation into the attacks that killed 33 bystanders and 12 suicide bombers a year ago.
The director of Moroccan national security also said their were links between the Casablanca attackers and the assailants who carried out the Madrid train attack.
Laanigri said that Moroccan members of al-Qaida were behind the five nearly simultaneous attacks in Casablanca on May 16, 2003, and that the “operational chief” was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian sought by the United States.
He said Moroccan members of al-Qaida met with bin Laden and his top lieutenant Ayaman al-Zawahri and, with the help of al-Zarqawi, obtained money.
“In 2002, the Moroccan jihadists (holy warriors) asked bin Laden to give them financial help. Zarqawi, who believed in them, pulled a few strings,” the general said. “That’s how they were able to get funds to organize.”
He said that there were connections between the Moroccan attackers and to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, or GICM, which is suspected in the Madrid bombings that killed 191 people. But he didn’t elaborate on the links.
Moroccan courts convicted 700 people on various charges in connection with the attacks, handing down 17 death sentences. Laanigri said that “only a dozen dangerous elements” remain at large.
The security chief said that Moroccans are implicated in the Madrid attacks simply because they are the largest Muslim community in Spain. Fourteen of the 18 people charged in the Madrid bombing are Moroccans.
“The investigation has established that they were the executors and not the instigators,” he said.
“There is no organic link” between the two attacks except for Jamel Zougam, a key suspect, and Abdelaziz Benyaich, who recruited him, Laanigri said. Benyaich was arrested in Spain in 2003, and Morocco is seeking his extradition.