Morocco arrests 3 more suspects in Nordic hikers’ killing

COPENHAGEN: Moroccan authorities have arrested three more suspects in the killings of two Scandinavian tourists in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, as the Danish intelligence agency said it “may be related” to the Daesh group.
The three new suspects were arrested in Marrakech as they tried to flee in a bus, according to national security spokesman Boubker Sabik. He told The Associated Press that authorities are investigating whether the three have terrorist affiliations. He said no other suspects are being sought.
Another suspect was arrested Tuesday, and a Moroccan prosecutor said he had affiliations to an extremist group, without naming it.
The killing has shocked Morocco, a popular tourist destination where attacks on foreigners are extremely rare. The women’s bodies were found Monday in the Atlas Mountains, an area prized by hikers.
The killing can be considered “politically motivated and thus an act of terror,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said Thursday. He said “there are still dark forces that want to fight our values” and “we must not give in.”
He confirmed the victims’ identities as Louisa Vesterager Jespersen of Denmark, and Maren Ueland from Norway.
“What should have been a holiday trip turned into a nightmare,” Loekke Rasmussen told reporters in Denmark.
In neighboring Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said terrorism “is not the only lead that is being investigated in Morocco” but said the case still “emphasizes the importance of combating violent extremism.”
“We trust that Moroccan authorities are doing their utmost to arrest those responsible for the murders,” she told a scheduled news conference.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Denmark’s domestic security agency said the preliminary investigation “indicate, according to Moroccan authorities, that the killings may be related to the terrorist organization the Daesh group.”
The bodies were found in a remote mountainous region, 10 kilometers (six miles) from the village of Imlil — often the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak.
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.
The website of state broadcaster 2M published photos Thursday that they said were of the three suspects taken on a bus.
Security officials could not immediately confirm to the AP the identities of those in the photos.
The Norwegian victim’s mother, Irene Ueland, told broadcaster NRK that her daughter had taken safety precautions before making the trip.
Authorities in Denmark and Norway on Wednesday warned their citizens against 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.
Morocco is generally considered safe for tourists but has battled with Islamic extremism for years, and more than a thousand Moroccans are believed to have joined the Daesh group.
An anti-terrorism rally is planned for Morocco’s capital Saturday.

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