Frenchman is arrested in hunt for Moroccan bombers

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The Independent Online

Moroccan police arrested a French citizen yesterday wanted in connection with last month's suicide bombings.

Robert Antoine-Pierre, 28, is the first foreign suspect implicated in the attacks that killed 43 people. He was taken into custody in the northern city of Tangiers, where he had been living with his Moroccan wife, security officials said.

Police launched a manhunt for him after several other suspects in the Casablanca bombings claimed he gave the orders for the five coordinated attacks on 16 May that targeted Jewish and Spanish sites in Morocco's largest city, as well as a major hotel.

Twelve suicide bombers - all Moroccans - died in the attacks. Dozens of Moroccans have since been detained.

Security officials say an international terrorism ring was behind the attacks and investigators have been examining Moroccan links to al-Qa'ida.

Mr Antoine-Pierre, also known as "Lhaj" and as "Abou Abderrahmane" was identified as armed and dangerous in a notice handed out at border crossings and police stations throughout Morocco. He converted to Islam and had been living in Tangiers since 1996. He and his wife have two children, the officials said.

Mr Antoine-Pierre, originally from near Lyon in central France, was known to French intelligence officials for his involvement in radical Islam, authorities said.

Officials believe he made frequent trips to Afghanistan, Germany, Spain and Turkey. They also believe Mr Antoine-Pierre was in contact with Abdelwaheb Rafiki, also known as Abou Hafs, a Moroccan Islamic cleric known for his anti-Western views. The cleric has been in jail for months on charges of "inciting violence."

He is believed to be one of the leaders of a homegrown Muslim extremist group, Salafia Jihadia, which is suspected of ties to al-Qaida.