Rabat, Morocco : 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 the Islamic State group.
Sabik told national television 2M on Sunday that the suspects targeted the two girls randomly and that ISIS didn’t co-ordinate the killings.
Sickening footage is being shared online by ISIS fanatics claiming to show the gruesome murders of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and Maren Ueland, 28.
The pals were decapitated on a hiking holiday after their suspected killers were seen lying in wait just 600 yards away.
Video circulating on Twitter appears to show a group of men approaching the women’s camp on the night of their murders.
Danish officials have authenticated the chilling footage, which is thought to have been filmed on a mobile phone.
Cops confirmed they had earlier arrested four people in connection with the murders.
Maren, from Norway, and Louisa were on a month-long walking holiday when they pitched up near the village of Imlil, a popular tourist destination at the foot of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa.
On Monday morning, French hikers found one of the victims dead inside her tent and another lying outside.
One had been beheaded and the second had sustained a serious throat wound.
The video – which is purporting to record the women’s deaths and is too graphic to publish – shows a woman screaming while a man cuts her neck with what appears to be a kitchen knife.
The perpetrators are heard linking the brutality of the video’s contents to Western bombings in Syria, saying: “This is for Syria, here are the heads of your Gods.”
All suspects have sworn allegiance to ISIS, according to a source quoted in Norwegian newspaper vg.no.
These reports back up the Rabat public prosecutor’s office statement yesterday that the only captured suspect has affiliations to a terrorist group.
State television 2M has also reported on its website that authorities are treating the murders as a terrorist act.
The stunned French tourists who discovered the bodies alerted police, who arrested one suspect on Tuesday and tracked down a further three men this morning after a manhunt.
Moroccan authorities are yet to publish the names of the suspects, but released mugshots of three of them while tracing them.
It’s thought the men may have stalked the pair before attacking them while they slept on Monday.
Earlier reports claimed police were probing a possible sexual motive for the crime – having ruled out robbery because none of the victims’ belongings were missing.
They allegedly fled leaving behind their tent – where cops found the forgotten ID of one of the arrested men.
It led officers to him and the three men that have now all been held.
A source told Morocco World News: “The suspects were camping in the same area that the murder took place.
“Witnesses saw the group at night as they were heading to the camp area.”
Maren’s mum told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that her daughter was “warm and engaged”.
She said: “Her first priority was safety. The girls had taken all the precautionary measures before embarking on this trip.”
Both were students of “outdoor activities and cultural guidance” at the University of Southeastern Norway and attended a campus in Boe, west of Oslo.
On its home page the university confirmed the women had been on a “month-long, private holiday in Morocco”, adding: “Our thoughts go to the families.”
The friends had reportedly set up a camp near Imlil, a popular tourist destination at the foot of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa.
A spokesman for the Moroccan police, Boubker Sabik, told the news site Barlamane the police can not confirm whether the video actually shows the double murder, but that the video is now being investigated.
Authorities in Denmark and Norway are also investigating whether the video is genuine.
Image : This undated handout picture shows 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway (left) and 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark