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Authorities examine photo of girl resembling missing Madeleine McCann
In this photo released by Cadena Cope, Wednesday Sept. 26, 2007, a woman in Moroccan-style clothing, is seen carrying a fair-haired child on her back that resembles missing British four-year-old Madeline McCann. The photograph was taken by two Spanish tourists recently in Morocco near the northern city of Tangiers, which lies just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain. Spanish police have passed the picture on to Interpol. Madeleine, 4, disappeared from the Portuguese resort Praia da Luz on May 3. - photo by Associated Press
    RABAT, Morocco — Police are analyzing a photo allegedly taken in Morocco of a girl who appears to resemble missing toddler Madeleine McCann, Interpol and a spokesman for the British Embassy said Wednesday. But British news reports suggested it was a false alarm in the high-profile case, saying the girl was Moroccan.
    The photograph shows a woman walking along a road and carrying a fair-haired child on her back. It was reportedly taken last month by Spanish tourists in northern Morocco.
    Published on Web sites worldwide, the picture fanned hope that Madeleine could turn up more than four months after she disappeared from a Portuguese resort where she was on vacation with her family.
    British news reports, citing villagers in the area, said Wednesday the girl in the photo was not Madeleine but the daughter of a Moroccan villager.
    Rashid Razaq, a reporter from Britain’s Evening Standard newspaper said he saw the girl in Morocco on Wednesday: ‘‘She has got a resemblance to Madeleine but when you see her properly, it is obvious it isn’t her.’’
    Razaq reported that the girl in the picture was 5-year-old Bushra Binhisa, the daughter of an olive farmer.
    Interpol said its Madrid office had received ‘‘a number of photographs from members of the public of potential Madeleine sightings, including the picture taken in Morocco by a Spanish couple.’’
    The international police organization, based in Lyon, France, said the photographs had been forwarded to Portuguese police, who are leading an investigation into the girl’s disappearance.
    ‘‘We understand that the photo has been sent to the relevant authorities and is being analyzed,’’ said Adrian Chapman, a British Embassy spokesman in Rabat, the Moroccan capital.
    The Moroccan Interior Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment and Portuguese police declined to comment on the grounds that an investigation was continuing.
    Madeleine disappeared from the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, days before her fourth birthday. Portuguese police have named the girl’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, as official suspects in the disappearance.
    The couple said they had left the girl and her younger twin siblings asleep in their rented villa while they had dinner nearby. Despite an extensive search and a worldwide publicity effort led by her parents, no confirmed trace of the child has turned up.
    Alleged sightings of the girl have already been reported in Europe and Morocco. The area in which the photograph was taken is known for European influences, and fair-haired children with light-colored eyes are relatively common in the North African kingdom.
    The photo was taken through a car windshield at a distance of several dozen yards and the resemblance to Madeleine was only clear upon zooming up on the image.
    The photo, in which only vague outlines of the girl’s face were visible, did not suggest any effort by the woman or anyone around her to keep the child’s face hidden.
    ‘‘Clearly, if these reports that the girl in the photograph isn’t Madeleine are true, it is disappointing news,’’ said Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ spokesman.
    ‘‘This is why Gerry and Kate refused to comment on individual sightings and why I was advising caution overnight. Clearly, the search for Madeleine will continue and I would appeal for everyone to refocus their efforts to achieve her safe return,’’ he said.

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