Morocco says Scandinavian hikers’ killers pledged allegiance to ISIS
LONDON – Four suspects arrested following the killing of two Scandinavian hikers in southern Morocco pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), Moroccan authorities confirmed.
Officials are investigating the suspects’ suspected links to ISIS after a video on social media allegedly showed the killing of one of the tourists and the perpetrators pledging allegiance to ISIS.
“The video showing the arrested individuals… pledging allegiance to ISIS was recorded last week before the execution of the criminal acts we are investigating,” a statement from the prosecutor’s office in Rabat said.
“The video and preliminary investigation according to the Moroccan authorities indicate that the killings may be related to the terrorist organisation Islamic State,” the Danish intelligence service said in a statement.
“This is a case of an unusually bestial killing of two totally innocent young women,” the statement added.
Moroccan authorities expressed outrage at the deaths of the two Scandinavian tourists amid fears that the killings would have a detrimental effect on Morocco’s tourism sector, which accounts for 10% of the country’s economy.
The bodies of Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and Norwegian Maren Ueland, 28, were found December 17. They had pitched a tent at an isolated mountain site 2 hours’ walk from the village of Imlil.
Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani described the killings as a “stab in the back of Morocco and Moroccans.” Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi said they were “criminal and terrorist acts.”
Three suspects, all from Marrakech, were arrested December 20 in relation to the killings following a nationwide manhunt. The suspects were identified as Rachid Afatti, Ouziad Younes, and Ejjoud Abdessamad.
The other suspect, who name was not released, was arrested December 17, hours after the discovery of the two women’s bodies in the High Atlas mountains of southern Morocco. Authorities confirmed he had ties to an Islamic extremist group but did not specify which one. He is also from Marrakech.
One of the suspects had “a court record linked to terrorist acts,” police spokesman Boubker Sabik said.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen also hinted at a terrorism tie. “Much now indicates that the killings could be politically motivated and thus a terrorist act,” he said.
“There are still dark forces out there who will try to fight our values with violence, threaten our society and the way we live our lives. It makes me angry but also more firm that we never must give in or give way,” he added.