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Hakim Ankar

Morocco's murder mysteries

Baha was hit by a train near the spot Zaidi drowned a month before [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 December, 2014

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Two prominent Moroccan politicians have died in unusual circumstances in recent weeks. Their deaths are the latest in a long line of mysterious and unexplained endings among the country's elite.

The reasons are many but death is the same, so goes the Arabic adage.

Ahmed Zaidi,
a leading member of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, died last month while trying to cross the Sherat river in Morocco. Abdullah Baha, a state minister, was hit by a train last week near the spot where Zaidi died.

The circumstances of their deaths have been questioned by many in Morocco, a country that is no stranger to the underhand and the unexpected. Here are 10 more:

Abbas Messaadi:
The anti-colonial fighter was killed in 1956 in a struggle between factions of the Moroccan resistance. The accusations of responsibility for Messaadi's death are still traded between political leaders, including Mahjoubi Aherdane and Mohamed Bensaid Ait Idder.

An investigation into Messaadi's death was launched under the reign of King Mohammed V, however the case was closed with no results. Resistance figures continued to seek answers and directly accused Mehdi Ben Barka, a leading figure in the National Liberation Movement.

Mehdi Ben Barka:
Morroco's main opposition figure was snatched off the street in October 1965 in Paris, as Morocco was in the throes of the "students' revolt".

Ben Barka was reportedly killed by a blow from an interrogator, and his body dissolved in acid to cover up the crime.


Ahmed Buokhari, a former agent in the Moroccan Cab-1 secret service, said in his memoirs that Ben Barka was abducted in a joint operation between France and Morocco,  flown to Rabat and interrogated at the Cab's headquarters.

According to Boukhari, Ben Barka was killed by a strike from an interrogator, and his body dissolved in acid to cover up the crime. No trace of Ben Barka has been found.

Allal al-Fassi:
Morocco's leading opposition figure died while on a diplomatic trip to Bucharest, Romania, in 1974.

Omar Benjelloun: 
A trade union leader and prominent politician, Benjelloun was stabbed to death in front of his home in Casablanca in 1975. The murder was blamed on people linked to Chabiba Islamiya, an armed Islamist group founded by Abdelkrim Motii. No culprit has been brought to justice.

Saida Menebhi: 
This Marxist youth activist from the Ila al-Amame underground movement was tortured at the Derb Moulay Cherif prison in Casablanca. She later went on hunger strike and died in 1977 in suspicious circumstances.

Boujemaa Habbaz: The Moroccan Berber activist and intellectual disappeared in 1981, in the events that became known as the "bread revolt". There has been no trace of Habbaz since his disappearance.

Abdel Salam el-Mouden: 
The Marxist intellectual and politician spent long years in King Hassan II's prisons before dying in a road accident in 1992. An investigation concluded Mouden suffered a psychotic episode that led him to walk out in front of a truck.

Houcine el-Manouzi: 
The trade union activist was reportedly abducted in 1972 in a joint operation between the Moroccan and Tunisian intelligence services in Tunis. His whereabouts remain unknown.

General Mohamed Oufkir:
According to official accounts, Oufkir committed suicide in 1972 by shooting himself - multiple times - after being accused of involvement in a failed coup attempt against Hassan II in 1972.

General Ahmed Dlimi:
Hassan II's right-hand man after the "suicide" of Oufkir became famous as the commander of Moroccan forces in the Western Sahara conflict against the Polisario Front.

He met an untimely end in Marrakech in 1983, when he was run over by a truck.

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