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The attack on the hotel Asni in Marrakech : The straw that broke the camel’s back

On the 24th of August 1994, Marrakech and most precisely Hotel Asni witnessed one of the first terrorist attacks in the country. The attack that left two people dead was carried out by three Algerian-French nationals. Morocco back then accused the Algerian intelligence services of planning the deadly shooting, a claim that worsened the diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries.

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Atlas-Asni hotel attack on the 24th of August 1994./Ph. DR

On the 24th of August 1994, two Spanish tourists were shot dead in one of the first terrorist attacks that targeted Morocco. The shooting took place in Atlas-Asni hotel in Marrakech, a sanctuary for tourists. The deadly attack was carried out by two French nationals namely Stephane Ait Idir, a 22-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin and Redouane Hammadi, 24-year-old Moroccan who was born in Paris. According to a book that sheds light on the attack, entitled «Terrorism, 1992-1995 : A Chronology of Events and a selectively Annonated Bibliography» written by Edward F. Mickolus and Susan L. Simmons : «Idir was arrested at the train station in Fes. Hammadi was picked up at Taouirirt on the Oujda road not far from Fes.»

The same source writes quoting the Moroccan Ministry of Interior that «a third commando was identified but succeeded in leaving Morocco for a foreign destination». Another suspect was involved in the Asni attack named Kamal Benachka, 26, an Algerian who has the French citizenship.

The recruiter, Abdelilah Ziyad, was also a member of the terrorist group but did not take part to the attack. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. After his release, he turned into a radical preacher in a mosque in France. The four other terrorists had reportedly planned to target other hubs in several cities of the Kingdom.

Blaming the Algerian Intelligence Services for the attack

Consequently, Morocco accused firmly Algeria of having planned the infamous attack. Indeed, King Hassan II ordered to enforce visa requirements on the Algerian citizens planning to enter the country. As a response, Algeria did the same and since then borders between the neighboring nations have been closed.

However, Morocco’s allegations revealed to be somewhat accurate. According to The National, a middle eastern English-language newspaper, Karim Moulay, a former Algerian agent who worked for the Algerian intelligence services in 1994 claimed that his country contributed to the Asni attack. «The Algerian intelligence services were behind the planning and execution of the attack on the Hotel Asni in the Moroccan city of Marrakech back in August 1994», states the same source quoting the London-based Quds Press International News Agency.

«I was dispatched by Algerian intelligence to Morocco in April 1994 with the mission of initiating some security breaches in order to foment instability in the country, which I did», said Moulay who spoke to media years after the attack. 

Unbeknown to him, the agent was not aware about the fact that his mission consisted of bombing the hotel. Karim Moulay who left the Algerian Intelligence services later seeking refuge in London declared to media that he was unsure about delivering this information amid the fragile diplomatic relations between Morocco and Algeria.

As of now Morocco and Algeria’s borders are still closed banning both Moroccans and Algerians from stepping into each other’s lands without a visa. A measure that both nationals have grown accustomed to respect.

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