Two Britons detained over Casablanca bombings

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Two British citizens have been detained in Morocco as part of a clampdown on Islamic militants after suicide bombings in Casablanca in which 44 people were killed.

Perry Jensen, aged 37, and Abdelatif Merroun, 42, a businessman, are being held on suspicion of having ties to a clandestine network called Salafiya Jihadia. The extremist group has been implicated in the attacks in Casablanca on 16 May, in which the 12 bombers also died. It has been linked by the Moroccan authorities to al-Qa'ida.

Mr Jensen, who comes from London, converted to Islam in 1994 and is married to a Moroccan woman. He is facing charges of membership of an illegal group and being a member of a criminal gang, which is an offence the Moroccan courts use to prosecute suspected terrorists. He also faces charges of "immorality".

The Foreign Office said that he was also accused of having married a second women while living in Morocco, according to the courts there.

Unconfirmed reports from Morocco said that Mr Jensen had travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia in connection with his alleged ties to the mujahedin.

MAP, Morocco's official news agency, said: "[Mr Jensen] is believed to belong to the international radical Islamist movement and had contacts with the Moroccan leaders of the Salafist Jihad movement."

Mr Jensen was arrested in Casablanca in June and has been moved to the city of Fez in the north. He appeared in court on Thursday and was seen by British embassy staff on the same day. If found guilty, he is likely to receive a long prison sentence.

Mr Merroun was born in Morocco and has dual British nationality after marrying a British citizen. He is also being held at a prison in Fez in connection with the suicide bombings. He is thought to have been living in the northern city of Tangiers.

The Foreign Office has requested a meeting with Mr Merroun, but this has yet to take place. A spokeswoman said it learned of the men's detention on Tuesday, after making inquiries on behalf of the families.

The attacks, which hit a hotel, a Spanish restaurant and Jewish targets in Casablanca, Morocco's largest city, left 32 people dead and about 100 others injured. The suicide bombers used homemade explosives stuffed into backpacks and detonated at almost precisely the same time in five locations. Twelve of the 14 attackers - all Moroccan - died.

The two new arrests bring to three the number of foreigners being held in connection with the suicide bombings. Pierre Robert, a French citizen who converted to Islam and lives in Tangiers, was arrested 3 June, suspected of being a leader of a militant cell in northern Morocco. An investigation showed he had no direct link to the Casablanca attacks. He has been charged with having organised explosives training for militants.

More than 240 people allegedly linked to the Salafiya Jihadia have been detained since the bombings, and several trials are under way. Twenty-nine members of Salafist Jihad were given sentences yesterday of up to 30 years in prison on charges including belonging to a criminal organisation, kidnap and inciting violence. The sentences, not directly linked to the Casablanca blasts, stemmed from a clampdown on militants that followed the atrocities.

The bombings are believed to have been carried out by sympathisers of the ultra-conservative Salafist Jihad. The suspected mastermind of the terrorist attacks died shortly after being arrested by police in May. No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

The trial of four Moroccans charged with being religious leaders of the Salafist Jihad and having influenced the suicide bombers was postponed yesterday.