Rabat: Moroccan authorities say a total of 19 people have been arrested in connection with the murders of two Nordic tourists in the Atlas Mountains.
Boubker Sabik, a spokesman for Morocco's national security agency, says 10 new suspects were arrested over the last two days for their links with the alleged killers of 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark, and 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway.
Their bodies were found last week in their camping tent in a remote area in the Atlas Mountains. Authorities believe the hikers were killed by men affiliated with Daesh the Islamic State group.
Sabik told national television 2M on Sunday that the suspects targeted the two girls randomly and that Daesh didn't coordinate the killings.
The new suspects were detained across the country for their “alleged links with the perpetrators of the terrorist act”, Morocco’s central bureau of judicial investigations said.
Police also seized “electronic equipment, a shotgun, knives ... a military uniform and materials that could be used to manufacture explosives”, it added.
Moroccan authorities said last Thursday that four other suspects arrested following the murder of the two tourists had pledged allegiance to Daesh.
The bodies of the two women were found Monday after they had pitched their tent at an isolated mountain site two hours’ walk from the tourist village of Imlil.
One of them was beheaded, according to a source close to the investigation.
Imlil is a starting point for trekking and climbing tours of Mount Toubkal, which at 4,167 metres is the highest summit in North Africa.
Hours after the grisly discovery authorities announced the arrest of a first suspect and later said he belonged to an “extremist” group, while the three other suspects were arrested last Thursday while they were trying to flee from Marakesh.
Denmark’s PET intelligence service said it “shares” the assessment by the Moroccan authorities that the murders were an “act of terrorism”.
Moroccan investigators are probing a link to extremism after a video emerged showing the suspects “pledging allegiance” to Daesh, the Rabat prosecutor has said.
Authorities were working to determine the authenticity of a video posted on social media networks allegedly showing the murder of one of the tourists, according to the prosecutor.
“At this point, there is no tangible evidence that the video is not authentic,” Norway’s criminal investigations agency Kripos said Friday.
Denmark’s PET agency said “technical analyses have not been completed”, but that nothing indicates that the footage is “not genuine”.
“The Danish National Police and PET are working closely with the Moroccan authorities,” it said.