Nine Moroccan extremists convicted for their roles in the Casablanca suicide bombings which killed 45 people in 2003 have escaped by tunneling out of their prison.
The escape from Kenitra prison, 25 miles east of the capital Rabat, was only discovered this morning after dawn prayers, the Moroccan justice ministry admitted in a statement .
“Measures have been taken to find the escaped prisoners and establish who was responsible,” the statement added. One of the escapees was a death row prisoner awaiting execution for his part in the bombings, which targeted a Jewish community centre, a Spanish social and cultural club, a hotel and a restaurant. Twelve of the 45 dead were suicide bombers.
Abderrahim Mahtade, the president of a welfare group for jailed Islamist militants, said one of the nine escapees had been sentenced to death, six others to life imprisonment and two were given 20 years in jail. They all came from Casablanca.
Mr Mahtade said the escapees had left a letter behind them, explaining their decision to break out.
The letter, signed by the nine escapees, said: “No to injustice. We had tried every way to end this injustice and we knocked on all doors for that without result. The only way left for us is to do that (breakout). We hope that you will understand.
“We apologise for the disturbance we have caused. That was the only solution.” Around 900 Islamist extremists are being held in Moroccan prisons, many of whom staged a 24-hour hunger strike today in protest over their prison conditions and in pursuit of political status.
Last December a convicted drug dealer called Mohamed Ouazzani, alias Nini, strolled out of Kenitra prison unhindered. The justice ministry was informed only a week later of his disappearance.
In January, eight prison guards were sentenced to sentences ranging from two months to two years for abetting his escape.