An explosion rocked a suburb of Casablanca early Wednesday, killing at least one person and injuring six, residents and government officials said. An Interior Ministry official said the blast was accidental and not linked to terrorism.
The explosion on the Boulevard el Joulane in the Salmia suburb of Casablanca, Morocco's economic capital, occurred around 8:45 GMT in or near a video game arcade, said Hassan Sajeed, a witness.
Sajeed said the windows of his apartment were blown out by the blast, which reverberated through the neighborhood. Several people were covered in blood, he said by telephone from the site of the explosion. He said an elderly woman had head injuries from fragments of stone.
An Associated Press photographer at the scene said half a dozen cars were severely damaged, as were the video game arcade and a nearby bank.
"Everyone here thinks it's a bomb," Sajeed said. "Windows were blown out in a 40-meter radius."
But a senior Interior Ministry official said a gas canister had exploded by accident. He requested anonymity in keeping with Moroccan government regulations regarding security matters.
The explosion came as Morocco celebrated one of its largest national holidays, to commemorate the Mulid an-Nabi, or birthday of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
A largely moderate Muslim kingdom and a strong U.S. ally, Morocco has fended off a rise in terrorist threats in recent years. A string of attacks killed 45 people in Casablanca in 2003 and Morocco has since jailed hundreds of suspected Islamist militants on terrorism charges.
Associated Press photographer Jalil Bounhar reported from Casablanca and writer Alfred de Montesquiou reported from Tangiers, Morocco.