20 December 2018

Morocco: Killing of Scandinavian Backpackers Linked to Terrorism

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(file photo)

The alleged killers of two backpackers from Norway and Denmark have been linked to a terror group. Authorities are hunting for several more suspects.

The murder of two young Scandinavian backpackers has been linked to a militant group, Moroccan authorities announced on Wednesday.

The one person arrested in connection with the murder is a member of an unnamed terrorist group, a prosecutor said Wednesday. Three other suspects are being pursued.

The young women's bodies were found by fellow tourists on Monday with their throats slashed on a popular hiking route in the Atlas Mountains, near North Africa's highest peak.

Video shared on social media

Police are checking the authenticity of a video shared on social media that purports to show the killing of one of the tourists, the general prosecutor said in a statement. The video shows a woman in underpants screaming as a man decapitates her with what appears to be a kitchen knife while another person holds down the victim. The scene appears to take place outside a tent with camping gear scattered on the ground.

Reuters news agency reported that one of the victims was found dead inside her tent while another was found outside, citing a source from Imlil.

Morocco's public TV channel 2M reported that the slaying of the two tourists was militant-related, citing a security source. Local media reported that the suspects had links to the "Islamic State" group. There were also local reports of video surveillance footage showing three suspects putting up a tent near the victims' tent and leaving the area after the slaying.

Rare occurrence

Morocco has largely avoided the terrorist violence prevalent in other North African countries, thanks in part to the 2015 creation of the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations, which has so far broken up 57 militant cells, including eight in 2018. However, more than 1,000 young Moroccans have joined militant groups in the Middle East.

The country is generally considered to be safe for tourists, aside from harassment of solo female travelers. Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of the Moroccan economy and is the kingdom's second-largest employer, after agriculture. It's also the main source of foreign currency. After the killing, authorities in Denmark and Norway warned their citizens from hiking without local guides in Morocco.

aw/sms (AP, Reuters)

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