21 December 2018

Morocco Backpacker Murder Video 'Authentic' Says Norway

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(file photo)

Police in Norway say a video purporting to show the murder of two female tourists -- from Denmark and Norway -- is likely authentic. The backpackers' bodies were discovered in Morocco's High Atlas mountain range.

Police in Norway said on Friday that footage circulating on social media showing a woman in underpants screaming as a man decapitates her with what appears to be a kitchen knife was likely authentic.

Norway's National Criminal Investigation Service said that "there is no concrete evidence indicating the video is not real."

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).

They 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.

Four men have been detained in Morocco in relation to the murders.


Morocco's Atlas Mountains - A Troubled Region

Killings linked to terrorism

The Moroccan Bureau for Judicial Investigations said that the evidence so far indicated a terrorist motive.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen appeared to agree with the assessment, saying that the murders were "politically motivated and thus an act of terror."

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the killings "a brutal and meaningless attack on innocent people, which we react to with disgust and condemnation."

Moroccan authorities said the four arrested suspects had pledged allegiance to the "Islamic State" group.

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.

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 against hiking without local guides in Morocco.

kw,rs,aw/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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