Terrorism suspected in murder of two tourists in Morocco

Islamists suspected to have carried out murder of two Scandinavian tourists who were trekking in southern Morocco.

Ben Ariel ,

Flash 90

Moroccan authorities suspect that the murder of two young Scandinavian women who were trekking in the southern part of the country was terror-related, AFP reported Wednesday.

Islamists are suspected to have carried out the murder of the two women, one of whom was beheaded, a source close to the probe told the news agency.

"Radical Islam is not ruled out due to the profile of the suspect arrested and of the three men wanted" after the women's bodies were found Monday in the High Atlas Mountains, the source, who asked not to be named, added.

The source told AFP that one of the women, who have been identified as 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark and 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway, had been beheaded.

Police spokesman Boubker Sabik also said terrorism was suspected and that the three suspects on the run had been "identified and a search for them is under way by all the security services."

One of the three suspects had "a court record linked to terrorist acts", he said, while the prosecutor general's office said the man in custody belonged to an extremist group.

The prosecutor general's office, in a statement, said it was determining the authenticity of a video on social media allegedly showing the murder of one of the women, according to AFP.

The interior ministry initially said that the Danish and Norwegian hikers were found with cuts to their necks in an isolated mountainous area located 10 kilometers (six miles) from the tourist village of Imlil.

The arrest was made in Marrakesh, about 60 kilometers north of Imlil, the ministry said.

A local guide who works in the area told AFP the body of one woman was found inside a tent and the other outside of it.

The guide, who declined to be identified, said the area where they were found was also frequented by three men from Marrakesh, including the one who was arrested.

The most recent jihadist attack hit Morocco in 2011, when 17 people were killed in Marrakesh, including Israeli citizen Michal Weitzmann Zikri and her husband Masoud Zikri, a native of Morocco.

Previously, an attack in the financial capital Casablanca left 33 dead in 2003.

While Morocco has not been hit by terrorism in recent years, Moroccan authorities have arrested several suspects in connection with terrorist attacks in Europe.

In August of 2017, a man suspected of supplying gas canisters to a jihadist cell that carried out two terrorist attacks in Catalonia was arrested in Morocco.

A week earlier it was reported that Moroccan authorities had arrested two people suspected of links to the alleged perpetrators of an attack in Barcelona.