Scandinavian hiker murder suspects arrested and may have ties to ISIS
The arrests of nine more men in connection to the beheadings of two Scandinavian backpackers in Morocco foiled a "terrorist plot," investigators revealed Sunday.
Boubker Sabik, a spokesman for the Moroccan security and domestic intelligence services. told Reuters the additional arrests were made as authorities investigated the killings of the two women, identified as Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway, and Louisa Vesterager, 24, of Denmark.
Louisa Vesterager, left, and Maren Ueland, right, were found dead Monday with stab wounds on their neck near the village of Imlil.
The women were found dead Monday with stab wounds on their neck near the village of Imlil, a starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak.
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The arrests, which investigators said unfolded Friday across the country, bring the total number of suspects in the case of their slayings to 13. Four other men were arrested earlier.
Sabik said the arrests of the nine "spared Morocco a terrorist plot," as they were found with a variety of items including electronic devices, knives, bomb-making materials and unauthorized rifles. He did not elaborate about the plot itself.
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The suspects were between the ages of 25 and 33 and were headed to the area where the women were beheaded with the intent to commit a crime, Sabik said.
The remote village of Imlil nestled on the slopes of the Atlas mountains in Morocco on Dec. 20, 2018, about six miles from the spot where the bodies of two Scandinavian women were found.
(Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix via AP)
He said that while the suspects were seen in a video before the bodies were found pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State terror network, the suspects were "lone wolves."
“The crime was not coordinated with Islamic State,” Sabik said. “Lone wolves do not need permission from their leader."
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Sabik added that authorities were continuing to investigate footage that allegedly showed one of the women being beheaded. He said, "The video has no background and the clothes of the victim are not identical to those in reality." Norwegian place last week said the video likely was authentic.
Morocco is generally considered safe for tourists but has been routing out Islamic extremists for years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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