Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, from Denmark and Maren Ueland, from Norway were trekking in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains when they were killed
A group of Islamist terrorists are suspected to have carried out the murder of two young Scandinavian women trekking in southern Morocco, one of whom was beheaded, a source close to the probe said. The killings have shocked nation a popular tourist destination where such attacks on foreigners are reported to be extremely rare.
One man has been arrested following the discovery on Monday of the bodies of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, from Norway.
Authorities confirmed the lone suspect arrested in the killing of the tourists in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains is connected to a terrorist group, and three other suspects are on the run.
24-year-old Jespersen, from Denmark and Ueland, 28, from Norway were trekking in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains when they were killed.
The suspects shared a sick video of themselves executing the Scandinavian backpackers on social media.
Moroccan authorities are investigating a video which reportedly shows the brutal murder of a Scandinavian backpacker. Police are now attempting to verify whether the video is real.
Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, were discovered with cuts to their neck in the tourist village of Imlil.
One Twitter user claimed that a man in the video says: “This is revenge for our brothers in Haji in Syria”.
He also said: “Here are your enemy heads of God”. Haji was recently bombarded by the coalition forces.
Investigators say terrorism was a motive behind their deaths and say one suspect belonged to a militant group.
Security personnel at the scene where the bodies of two Scandinavian women tourists were found
State television 2M reported on its website that authorities consider the two women’s slayings a terrorist act. Local media reported that the suspects had links to the Islamic State group.
The women, who were from Denmark and Norway, were discovered stabbed in the neck Monday by other tourists, who alerted police, according to national media. Hiking in the area was temporarily suspended. A source told AFP that one of the women had been beheaded in a remote mountainous region.
The Rabat public prosecutor’s office said in a statement Wednesday that the only captured suspect has affiliations to a terrorist group, without naming the group.
The suspect was arrested in Marrakech on Tuesday.
Three other suspects have been identified and but are still on the run, a security official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to be publicly named.
The women were found dead 6.2 miles from the village of Imlil, often the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak.
Victim: Maren Ueland. Moroccan investigators allegedly have video surveillance footage showing three suspects putting up a tent near the victims’ tent and leaving the area after the slaying
Broadcaster 2M released photos and videos Wednesday of forensic investigators and others working around the women’s brightly colored tent on a rocky hillside. The broadcaster said the tent held food and belongings for three people, including an ID card.
Moroccan media outlets reported that investigators have video surveillance footage showing three suspects putting up a tent near the victims’ tent and leaving the area after the slaying.
Authorities in Denmark and Norway warned their citizens from hiking without local guides in Morocco after the killing. Danish police officials said Wednesday they sent an officer to Morocco to assist in the investigation.
Victim: Louisa Vesterager Jespersen like her companion Ueland, was studying for a degrees in outdoor life, culture and ecophilosophy at the University of South-Eastern Norway
Morocco is generally considered safe for tourists and is a key ally of the United States and Europe in the fight against terrorism, but the country has struggled for years with sporadic Islamic extremism, and more than 1,000 Moroccans are believed to have joined the Islamic State group.
Media in Norway identified the Norwegian hiker as Maren Ueland, 28.
The mayor of her family’s hometown of Time, Reinert Kverneland, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that he informed relatives of Ueland’s slaying. The victim’s mother, Irene Ueland, told NRK her daughter had taken safety precautions before making the trip.
Photo line up of three of the four Islamist terrorists suspected to have killed the Scandinavian backpackers in Morocco’s Atlas mountains
The Danish victim was identified by media in Denmark as Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24. Her mother, Helle Jespersen, told tabloid BT two police officers rang the doorbell Monday evening with the message that her daughter had been killed. She said the family had warned her against undertaking the journey.
The University of South-Eastern Norway said on its website that both women were studying to earn bachelor’s degrees in outdoor life, culture and ecophilosophy. They attended a campus in Boe, southern Norway and west of Oslo.
“What we know is that they were on a month-long, private holiday in Morocco. Our thoughts go to the families,” the university said on its home page, adding flags were flown at half-staff in their memory Tuesday.
A police forensic team is seen at the area where the bodies of two Scandinavian women tourists were found dead in Morocco’s mountain region
The most recent jihadist attack hit Morocco in 2011, when 17 people were killed in Marrakesh. An attack in the financial capital Casablanca left 33 dead in 2003.
Tourism is key to Morocco’s economy and the kingdom’s second-largest employer, after agriculture. The sector accounts for 10 per cent of national income and is one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency.
After several years of near-stagnation, Morocco welcomed a record 11.35 million visitors in 2017, exceeding the 11-million mark for the first time.