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Escape of Nine Prisoners from the Kenitra Prison in Morocco - page 1 / 4





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Escape of Nine Prisoners from the Kenitra Prison in Morocco

The Incident

On 7 April 2008, nine men convicted of terrorist offences escaped from a prison in Kenitra, Morocco located 25 km north of the capital city of Rabat. The escape occurred around 5.30 a.m after dawn prayer. The prisoners escaped by digging a tunnel which surfaced in the backyard of the prison director’s house.1 They are believed to have had assistance both inside the prison and outside the tunnel.

The Moroccan authorities said all nine prisoners had been convicted of offences related to the 2003 Casablanca bombings, which killed 45 people and represent the largest terrorist attack in Moroccan history.2 In a note left behind in the prison, the prisoners apologized for causing a “disturbance” but claimed that escaping was the last resort left to them after repeated efforts to demonstrate their innocence. They also complained of poor treatment within the prison, which they cited as a motivation in the escape. Two of the prisoners had been sentenced to death; four were serving life sentences, and the remaining three had been sentenced to twenty years in prison. 3

The Escaped Prisoners

The nine escaped prisoners are believed to have met only in prison, where they planned their escape. They apparently belonged to different terrorist cells and networks. In the aftermath of the 2003 bombings, more than 1400 Moroccans associated with Salafism were arrested and charged with terrorism related activities. These nine appear to have been detained in that sweep and subsequently convicted of various offences. 4

The escaped prisoners are as follows:

- Abdullah Bo Ghumair, alias Abu Hafs: Sentenced for life in August 2003 for the murder of a French citizen. Abu Hafs was also implicated in creating bombs and establishing armed groups in order to execute terrorist operations in public places. He is believed to be the Amir of a militant group. 5

1 “Ayman Bin Altahami: Salafists and a Drug Baron Turned Kenitra into a Thrilling Capital” Elaph, 10 April 2008

2 “Morocco: 9 Imprisoned for Casablanca Blasts Escape,” The New York Times, 7 April 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/08/world/africa/08briefs- 9IMPRISONEDF_BRF.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin

3 4 Ibid “Mike Nizza: Behind a Jail Break in Morocco” The New York Times, 7 April 2008 http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/07/behind-a-jail-break-in- morocco/index.html?ex=1365307200&en=150422b0d2272412&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

5 “AFP: Moroccan Prisons Enhance Security Measurements After the Escape of Nine Prisoners”Al- Akhbar, 7 April 2008 http://www.akhbar.ma/_i39771_2.html

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