Dutch tourist looked Marrakesh bomber in the eyes

29th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch tourist who narrowly escaped the deadly bomb blast at a cafe in Marrakesh told AFP on Friday how he looked the man believed responsible in the eyes moments before his bomb exploded.

Thursday's attack in the Moroccan city, in which at least 15 people died, appears to have been the work of a bomber who left before the blast, despite suggestions it was a suicide attack, said 47-year-old John Van Leeuwen.

The marketing consultant from Rotterdam was saved thanks to his decision not to have a last cup of coffee. Instead, he left the Argana cafe with his girlfriend moments before the blast ripped through the popular tourist venue.

"There were only tourists in the cafe, and three other Moroccans, and one guy that didn't initially look suspicious," Van Leeuwen told AFP by telephone as he waited to catch a flight home with Marjolein Appel, 39.

"But after we found out it wasn't a gas explosion, my girlfriend and I, we looked at each other, and said that must have been him."

"There was an Arab man in the cafe, carrying two huge bags, including a backpack, that was an unusual sight, because it was about a metre (yard) high, and a second sports bag, also a very large bag."

"He was clean shaven, his hair was very nice, long black hair, very smooth .... I was looking at him, he was wearing a dark blue tracksuit, shiny, and the picture was too nice, he was drinking tea I think."

"I was looking in his eyes... he was listening to an MP3 player, he was not anxious at all, there were not that many people in the cafe, around 20 to 25 people, including the staff."

The couple's suspicions were apparently confirmed when they were questioned by Moroccan security services all day on Thursday and taken to see if the man with the bags was among the dead.

"We've been to the morgue and to the hospital to identify people, and we didn't see him again. We think, because we left two to four minutes before the explosion, he left directly after us."

Police created a photofit image of the alleged bomber based on the Dutch couple's description and "it looks as if it's someone that is familiar to the police," said Van Leeuwen.

"They came up with different photographs during the day, again and again, of the same person.... They were comparing them and trying to identify whether this could be the guy who actually did it.

"That person, the security services this morning questioned us again, and I asked them, because I was interested, do you think it was him? And they said 'yes', and they think that he left the cafe because he wasn't among the dead."

"We're first of all very happy to be alive but very sad about what happened to the other people. We don't feel good, there's this bad film you're in."

"Before we left the cafe I was about to have a second coffee, which is always what I do with those small espressos, and I decided in the end not to. If I had done that then I would have been dead, it's amazing luck."

© 2011 AFP

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