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Official: Blast at Moroccan cafe appears remotely detonated

By the CNN Wire Staff
Marrakech residents stand in front of the Argana cafe on Friday, one day after the explosions.
Marrakech residents stand in front of the Argana cafe on Friday, one day after the explosions.
  • NEW: Death toll is revised downward to 15
  • NEW: Bomb is remotely detonated, interior minister said.
  • NEW: French police are to help Moroccans in the investigation

Casablanca, Morocco (CNN) -- The bombing that ripped through a popular cafe in the Moroccan city of Marrakech apparently was set off at a distance, the state-run news agency said on Friday, citing the nation's interior minister.

Maghreb Arabe Presse quoted Taib Cherqaoui as saying that preliminary investigations show that the Thursday assault was conducted by people who remotely detonated the bomb. That development would rule out suspicions of a suicide mission.

"We will investigate this act of terrorism and find those responsible ... and their nationality," Cherqaoui told reporters about the attack. "We condemn it as a criminal act."

Also, a French police team has been sent to Morocco to assist authorities in their probe, the French Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Map showing location of blast
Explosion rips through Morocco cafe
  • Morocco
  • Marrakech

Authorities revised the death toll from 16 to 15 in the strike, which also injured nearly two dozen people.

In an address on state-run television Thursday, Cherqaoui and King Mohamed VI said the fatalities included six French nationals, five Moroccans, and four others whose nationalities were not divulged. CNN has learned that two of those slain were Russian.

The incident occurred around 11 a.m. at Cafe Argana in Marrakech's old city, which is designated by the United Nations cultural arm as a World Heritage Site. Tourists flock to old city in high numbers this time of the year, and it is usually packed with stalls, story-tellers and snake-charmers.

World leaders moved quickly to condemn the incident. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "appalled," according to a statement from his office. "He reiterates his firm rejection of the use of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians and maintains that no political objective justifies or is served by such heinous acts."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States "condemns in the strongest terms (Thursday's) terrorist attack," adding, "Acts of terrorism must not be tolerated wherever and whenever they occur."

And French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe condemned what he called a "barbarian terrorist attack, which nothing can justify."

Juppe said French authorities will provide assistance to French nationals in Marrakech.

A German tourist described a chaotic scene following the blasts.

"We were walking around the souks, right around the corner from Cafe Argana," said the tourist, who was about 50 meters from the blast when it occurred. "We heard a gigantic boom, and everyone immediately starting running towards the square to see what happened."

The woman, who didn't want her name used, told CNN the top floor and terrace of the cafe were "ripped apart" by the blast, which caused hundreds of people to run from the area.

CNN's Mitra Mobasherat and journalist Martin Jay contributed to this report