Al-Qaeda denies link to Marrakesh cafe attack

A man holds a sign in front of the Argana Cafe in Marrakesh during a demonstration (7 May 2011) Hundreds took part in demonstrations at the site of the blast, outside the Argana cafe

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Al-Qaeda in North Africa has denied that it was involved in an explosion at a cafe in Marrakesh last month in which 17 people died.

In a statement issued by a Mauritanian news agency, the regional offshoot said it had nothing to do with the attack.

Police in Morocco have arrested three over the blast and have said that the chief suspect was loyal to al-Qaeda.

Hundreds of people gathered at the site of the blast on Saturday to demonstrate against terror.

"We deny any link to this explosion and declare we are in no way involved in this operation," read Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's statement, carried by Nouakchott News Agency.

The statement was published in Arabic and dated Friday 6 May.

The group urged Moroccan Muslims to escalate a protest movement "to liberate their oppressed, jailed brothers and to topple the criminal regime", in a presumed reference to King Mohammed and his government.

The blast on 28 April at Marrakesh's Argana cafe killed mostly foreigners.

The bomb ripped through the cafe in Djemaa el-Fna Square, the tourist heart of Marrakesh.

According to Reuters, authorities said the chief suspect had disguised himself as a guitar-carrying hippy before planting two bombs in the popular tourist cafe.

The attack was the deadliest to hit Morocco since a bombing in Casablanca in May 2003 in which 45 people - including suicide bombers - were killed.

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