RABAT, Morocco (AP) – A Moroccan court on Friday postponed the trial of 19 Moroccans who face charges of involvement in an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group that is blamed for the 2003 bombings in Casablanca.
Hearings were not due to start again until June 16, to give some defendants time for medical exams, court officials said. Proceedings originally opened in September.
Prosecutors say the men formed an armed cell of Salafiya Jihadiya, a North African terrorist group that seeks to overthrow Morocco’s monarchy and replace it with Islamic rule.
The 19 suspects include six who were returned to Morocco recently by authorities in Algeria, which they entered secretly and where they are alleged to have undergone terrorist training with Algeria’s GSPC, or Salafist Group for Call and Combat.
The Moroccan investigation into those six men uncovered the existence of a large Salafiya Jihadiya cell in Sale, a city near Rabat widely reputed to be a center of militant Islam. The trial is due to take place in Sale.
Three other bands of alleged Islamic terrorists have been apprehended in the past three months, a Justice Ministry official said.
Morocco has stepped up its counterterrorism measures following the five near-simultaneous terrorist attacks in Casablanca in May 2003 that killed 45 people, including 12 suicide bombers.
Moroccan authorities blame the bombings on Salafiya Jihadiya, believed to be a general name or description of various militant groups, including the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.