UPDATE: Moroccan police said that 9 more suspects had been arrested over the murder of the European hikers.
On December 17th, the bodies of two Scandinavian tourists were discovered in the High Atlas Mountains in an isolated area near Imlil, on the way to Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak and a popular hiking destination.
The two women, who were training to be tourist guides, 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager from Denmark and Maren Ueland, a 28-year-old Norwegian, were knifed and decapitated while on a hiking tour in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Maren Ueland, 28-year-old Norwegian, training to be a tourist guide
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"The times when the motivation is lowest, the victories feels the biggest" Loui It is not often my motivation is low when going into the mountains, but today we had one of those days. Good we had each other and made it to another top 😋 . . . . #naturephotography #nature #mittnorge #mountains #outside #outdoorlife #outdoors #outdoor #outdoorliving #mountain #mitno #utno #turjenter #dnt #norge #norway #love #beautiful #happiness #landscape #instagood #instadaily #inspire #travel #explore #beautiful #breathtaking #girl #motivation #quotes
24-year-old Louisa Vesterager, also training to be a tourist guide
Following the discovery of the bodies a graphic video (Discretion is advised, scroll down far to find the video) was released showing a blonde woman being beheaded. In it, the suspected ISIS terrorists claimed that the Scandinavian women are the “enemies of God.”
The video showing the killing of one of the women was confirmed as authentic by Danish intelligence service PET and by Moroccan authorities on December 20th.
“The PET (intelligence service) confirms that a video circulating on the internet shows the murder of one of the two women killed in Morocco,” the authorities said in a statement. “The video and preliminary investigation according to the Moroccan authorities indicate that the killings may be related to the terrorist organization Islamic State.”
AFP reported that Moroccan authorities also worked on verifying the authenticity of the vide, while also analyzing a video posted on Twitter on December 20th, showing four men, said to be the arrested suspects, pledge allegiance to ISIS.
Men in the gruesome clip can be heard shouting ‘it’s Allah’s will’ while there are claims that the words ‘this is for Syria’ were used, in an apparent reference to Western bombing missions in the war-torn country. Thus, PET reportedly claimed that the killing can be connected to ISIS
All four suspects have been arrested as of December 21st.
The first suspect in the murder was arrested on the same day, by local police. He was suspected of belonging to an Islamic extremist group.
“The police found his ID card near the crime scene. He was also likely to have been caught on a camcorder in the mountain village of Imlil, which serves as a base camp for climbers bound for Toubkal. During the interrogation, the man reportedly pointed out three fellow culprits,” Sputnik reported.
On December 20th, AFP reported that three more suspects were arrested for the murder of the two women.
Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi described the killings as a “criminal and terrorist act,” while Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani called them a “stab in the back of Morocco and Moroccans.”
“The suspects have been arrested” and investigators were in the process of “verifying the terrorist motive, which is supported by the evidence and the findings of inquiries,” said the central judicial investigations office.
“The radical Islamist line has not been removed, because of the profile of the (first) suspect arrested and the three” others, who have links to radical Islamic circles, an unnamed source close to the investigation was cited by AFP.
Investigators have released pictures of the three fugitives, who were identified as Rachid Afatti, Ouaziad Younes and Ejjoud Abdessamad.
All three of them are from Marrakesh, and one of them had “a court record linked to terrorist acts,” police spokesman Boubker Sabik said.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen denounced what he called a “beastly crime.”
Addressing reporters, Rasmussen said “like the whole world, we react with consternation, disgust and a profound sadness.”
Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg condemned what she called a “brutal and meaningless attack on innocents.”
In Rabat, the government spokesman highlighted the efforts of the security services in the fight against terrorism by hailing the arrest in “record time” of the alleged suspects in the double murder.
Both Moroccan and Danish authorities stressed that the crimes are politically motivated and should be investigated as acts of terror.
Capital punishment, or as colloquially known the death penalty is still a valid punishment in Morocco, however no such verdict has been given since 1993. The investigation is still on-going and it is yet to be determined if the men are, in fact, the culprits.