Middle East

North Africa

International Reaction to the Suicide Bombings in Casablanca

Hamid Mahraz, killed by a suicide bomber at age 33, was survived by his sister.
Hamid Mahraz, 33, was killed by a suicide bomber in Casablanca. He was survived by his sister, shown here with his portrait (Photo: Mehdi Fedoua/AFP).

Casablanca L’Economiste (independent, business-oriented), May 20: They launched bombs because we opened the doors….These suicide bombers, who were true Moroccans, had been infantilized—by years of Arabization of the education system, by the vain presentation of our history, and by the negation of the role of Jews, Europe, and the positive values of liberty and tolerance. It’s up to the state to dismantle these terrorist networks and to learn a lesson: It’s not possible to play with fundamentalists to balance a political equation. They will eventually explode in one’s hands.
—Khalid Belyazid

Rabat L’Opinion (Istiqlal nationalist party organ), May 20: In the wake of the criminal terrorist attacks perpetrated in Casablanca, certain Moroccan voices have started to call for the separation of religion and state….This is a fatal error that can only harm the vital interests of our country. Morocco is a Muslim country and it advocates an Islam of openness and tolerance that is at the heart of our way of life….To want to change this position that has been chosen and consecrated by Moroccans for centuries would be to live in a foreign country….It would give a pretext to subversives, and to other Moroccan and foreign terrorists, to use Morocco as a permanent target.

Abha, Saudi Arabia Al-Watan (pro-government), May 19: Here it is again: Terrorism has claimed another victim in Morocco. And once again, terrorists proved that they are nothing but blind, hateful groups, without any real religious identity. As a matter of fact, faith and these groups are mutually exclusive. This type of black, dirty terrorism aims only at inflicting pain on innocent civilians, and disturbing stability. Those who sneak around at night like bats, hiding behind fake beliefs have no real cause. They use a religious cover to lure naive people and those with weak faith into suicide missions. They target innocent citizens, unarmed and peaceful victims. They kill for the sake of killing. Those who say that these people are fighting in the name of God are speaking like infidels. God never said to kill the innocent elderly, women, and children. God forbid....What kind of jihad gives you the right to murder your own people and to take the lives of innocents in your own homeland? Terrorism is migrating from one country to another and we do not know where it is going to hit next. But there must be a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. We must all work together to uproot this beast from our countries and inflict the harshest punishment upon those who commit crimes against us.

Cairo Al-Ahram (government-owned), May 19: Some may say that lack of justice and equality in weak nations are the reasons for the rise of terrorism. This could be partly true, for many...see superpowers adopt double standards and use their armies to achieve their own selfish ends—regardless of the interests of other nations. As a result, these people, especially the youth, become angry and frustrated and so commit foolish acts….Everyone can now buy arms and use them to pursue terrorists or to occupy countries. But this will not prevent angry, desperate youth from putting an explosive belt around their bodies and killing innocent people.

Amman Jordan Times (independent), May 18: The strong condemnation of the attacks [in Casablanca] by the leader of Morocco’s Islamic opposition was particularly important yesterday. Mustafa Ramid, leader of the Justice and Development Party, defined the bombings as “a savage terrorist crime,” leaving no room for doubts as to where Moroccan Islamists stand with regard to the Casablanca blasts. The same applies for Jordanian Islamists, who have long condemned all acts of terror in the strongest terms. Islam abhors the shedding of innocent blood. Islam abhors terrorism. Arab governments know it, Arabs know it, but it is up to all Islamic parties across the Middle East to make that message reach as many Western ears as possible.

Bangkok The Nation (liberal, English-language), May 20: The attacks last week…suggest that Washington's war on terror has somehow gone astray. Carried out of the charred rubble of the Jewish center in Casablanca, along with the body parts of 14 young suicide bombers, were some of U.S. President George W Bush’s purported strategic triumphs: that Al-Qaeda had been decimated, that invading Iraq would bring about regional stability, and that a show of American superpower against Saddam Hussein would overawe terrorists. Instead, the only conclusion that can be drawn from last week’s carnage is that the Washington-led “war on terror” still has a long way to go before it achieves victory.

Paris Le Monde (liberal), May 19: Al-Qaeda is only a trademark adopted by a decentralized, elusive movement that appears to be growing and that exists only by putting down roots locally. Terrorists are found in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, but they are also found in Morocco. And that is what is worrisome. There is a striking difference between Riyadh and Rabat: Elections are free in Morocco. But there are also similarities. The left, capable of bringing forth a grassroots civil society movement, has historically been decimated by the palace. The notion of citizenship is limited: The Moroccans remain the “subjects” of an old, still significantly feudalistic monarchy where religion still has a very strong hold. The royal power also favors this hold to slow the democratic evolution….The temptation will be to slow the opening of the country, but only an accelerated democratization can stem the dramatic rise of violence. It is up to King Mohammed VI to understand that.

Paris Le Figaro (conservative), May 19: Political Islam is at war with the West, “the Jews, and their crusaders.” Al-Qaeda has managed to put together a second generation of terrorists.…Its strength lies in its heterogeneous nature and its decentralized organization. Its strategy is clear: to punish the “impious” regimes of Muslim nations who rely on tourism.…It would be a mistake to underestimate these new soldiers of Islam who are ready to die for their ideology.…What should the West’s answer be? First and foremost it must be united against this Islamic threat. The transatlantic relationship is essential. The Americans have courage working for them. But they are lacking in method. The Europeans know the Arab-Muslim world better than the Americans. But the Europeans seem to be paralyzed by the threat. It is high time they woke up.

Tel Aviv Ma’ariv (centrist), May 18: If it is shown that the U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq “did not deliver” in terms of the war on terrorism, there will be increasingly more vociferous demands from the Europeans, Arabs, and the U.S. State Department “left-wingers” to try a “root canal” treatment this time, including a diplomatic solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which stokes Arab hatred for America. The Riyadh and Casablanca terrorist attacks are threatening U.S. strategic assets in the Middle East and North Africa. In the future, Washington may be more attentive to moderate Arab states’ entreaties to do something to neutralize the scourge that has been spreading from the Palestinian territories into the entire Arab world.
—Hemi Shalev

Düsseldorf Handelsblatt (financial), May 19: Those who felt safe after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now been brought back to reality. The Al-Qaeda hydra is active, even if some heads have been cut off. The fight against terrorism has by no means been won. During the Iraq war, Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network was able to restructure itself and is now systematically striking. This is the bitter message following the attacks in Riyadh and Casablanca. The threat has not diminished after the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. On the contrary, the Iraq war drove many new supporters into the hands of the extremists. That is why the self-satisfaction that spread in Washington after its first successes against Al-Qaeda is not justified....Irrespective of whether there has been a rift among G-8 members on Iraq...terrorism belongs on the top of the agenda of the G-8 summit in Evian.

Moscow Kommersant (business-oriented), May 19: Of course, it would be wrong, or at least simplistic, to say that the war in Iraq has provoked a wave of terrorist acts.…But there is certainly a link between “Operation Shock and Awe” and the latest terrorist attacks, if only because the U.S. efforts to piece together a worldwide antiterrorist front have prompted international terrorists to close their ranks and become more active. That, objectively, is the price of the U.S. victory in Iraq. It could be that terrorist acts in Morocco and Israel would have happened anyway. After all, there had been terrorist acts even before the first U.S. Tomahawks hit Basra and Baghdad. But now wherever a terrorist strikes, people will tend to link it to the war in Iraq in retaliation for the capture of Baghdad.

Madrid ABC (conservative), May 18: The attacks in Casablanca were the most brutal ones in the history of Morocco and they represent a further act in the terrorist strategy of defying the international democratic community. That they targeted Moroccan, Spanish, Israeli, U.S., and Belgian interests reflects the scale of values of the criminals, as well as their wish to nullify democracy and everything that Western civilization represents. It is essential to insist once again that this was not a reaction against the intervention in Iraq or against the foreign policy of the United States and its allies.

Madrid El Mundo (centrist), May 18: The mass demonstrations against the war in the main Moroccan cities made clear the level of hostility toward the countries that supported Bush in his military campaign. After the latest events we will always be left in doubt whether [Spanish Prime Minister José María] Aznar’s government weighed up properly the risks it was taking for Spain’s interests, in North Africa and elsewhere, when he showed his support for the U.S. president so openly and explicitly at the summit in Azores.

Madrid El País (liberal), May 18: This global terrorism does not seek just to harm Western interests but also to discredit the Arab governments that have supported the United States—before and after the Iraq war—such as Saudi Arabia and Washington’s main ally in North Africa, Morocco….The situation demands something more than condemnation from the Spanish government: [It demands] solidarity and cooperation in the fight against terrorism. It will also require a boosting of economic aid from Spain and the European Union because the attacks in Casablanca will have an extremely negative effect on tourism in Morocco, an essential industry for our neighbor country in North Africa.

Warsaw Przeglad (left-wing weekly), May 19: In the wake of attacks directed against Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the Arab world is entering a new chapter in its history. The entire Middle East will certainly plunge into destabilization, and the outcome is unpredictable. In fact, terrorism is a new kind of a disease that affects societies not much differently than new mutations of viruses affect people....The destructive means terrorists have adopted were in fact created by highly advanced Western civilization.

London The Times (conservative), May 19: Since the bloody bombings in Casablanca, there has been much talk of a new global crisis. Yet in truth the world cannot be changed by the blowing-up of a Spanish social club and a Jewish community center in Morocco, any more than by last week’s attacks on petrol stations in Pakistan. Only our overblown reactions to these local incidents can create a crisis. It is worth asking to what extent Al-Qaeda now exists more in the West’s fevered imagination than in the real world.
—Mick Hume