Morocco links suspect in Scandinavian women's killing to militant group


Nine more people have been arrested in Morocco for connections to the four initial suspects in the killing of two Scandinavian university students in a remote corner of the Atlas Mountains, Moroccan authorities said Friday.

The bodies of 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark and 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway were flown to Copenhagen from Casablanca on Friday, according to a police spokesman cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

One of the four suspects was arrested in the city of Marrakech on Tuesday, while the remaining three are still being sought by police.

Moroccan authorities said the men detained in Marrakech and a fourth suspect pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video.

A national security official has identified three of the suspects to the Associated Press as Abdessamad Ejjoud, born in 1993, Younes Ouziad, born in 1991, and Rashid Aftati, born in 1986.

The Danish intelligence service PET has stated that it has authenticated a video showing the murder of one of the two young Scandinavians killed in the south of Morocco.

The bodies of the two women were found Monday by other tourists, who alerted the authorities.

Islamic State used vehicle bombs and dozens of militants in the attack near Abu Khaser village in the Hajin area of southeastern Syria, where the SDF and coalition are battling to wipe out the last Islamic State pocket east of the Euphrates River, the SDF official Mustafa Bali said.

On Thursday, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said at a news conference that "much now indicates that the killings could be politically motivated and thus a terrorist act".

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In one of the black and white photos circulated by the authorities, a suspect wears white robes and a white skullcap, and has a long beard. Both are reported to have been experienced with outdoor activities, and to have prepared well for the hiking trip, which they took without a local guide.

The murders were "a brutal and senseless attack that we condemn", Solberg added.

Danish police said on Wednesday that it had sent an officer to Morocco to assist in the investigation.

The Moroccan prosecutor said the video was recorded before the murders.

Maren's mum told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that her daughter was a "warm and engaged".

Morocco is generally considered safe for tourists but has battled Islamic extremism for years. One of the bodies had been beheaded while the other had a deep wound to the neck.

The twisted monsters called the two university students "enemies of God" and then filmed themselves as they cut the women's heads off.

Tourism accounts for 10% of Morocco's national income and the country has generally been safe from jihadist attacks since a 2011 bombing in Marrakesh killed 17 people, a lot of them European tourists.

"It was terrible. They were broken", one of the French hikers said.