Morocco arrests suspect after brutal murder of Danish, Norwegian women

Moroccan authorities on Tuesday arrested a suspect following the murder of two Scandinavian tourists in the High Atlas mountains, the interior ministry said.

Morocco arrests suspect after brutal murder of Danish, Norwegian women
Security personnel at the scene where the bodies of the two Scandinavian women were found. Photo: via AP/Ritzau Scanpix

Other suspects are being sought over the deaths of the two women — a Dane and a Norwegian — whose bodies were found on Monday with cuts to their necks, the ministry said.

The bodies were discovered in an isolated mountainous area ten kilometres from the tourist village of Imlil in the High Atlas range.

Imlil is a starting point for trekking and climbing tours of Mount Toukbal, the highest summit in North Africa.

The suspect was arrested in the city of Marrakesh about 60 kilometres north of Imlil, the ministry said.

The Danish victim, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, “had her throat cut,” her mother Helle Petersen was quoted by Danish newspaper B.T. as saying.

Her family had warned her against going to Morocco “because of the chaotic situation,” she added.

The other victim was reported by media in Norway to be Maren Ueland, who was 28. She always prioritised safety when travelling, her mother told NRK.

The two women studied together in Norway.

Security was stepped up in the region and hiking suspended following the discovery of the bodies, media said, while the Moroccan interior ministry has confirmed that police are looking for further suspects in connection with the double murder.

Snow and poor weather in the area making investigation of the crime more difficult, local sources told Norwegian media. The two women arrived at Imlil on Sunday, VG reports.

“All of Imlil is in shock. This is a tragedy for the whole town,” a local guide, Mustapha, told the newspaper.

“Nothing like this has happened (here) before),” he said.

The two women are thought to have been sharing a tent. Their bodies were found at the tent on Monday, VG writes. The time of their death is not currently known.

The ambassadors of both Denmark and Norway are to travel to Marrakesh, according to VG’s report.

Norway’s police security service Kripos has said that it was prepared to assist Morroccan authorities with investigation of the crime, and police in Denmark and Norway were in ongoing communication, the agency’s head of communication Alex Due said.

A Norwegian officer in Moroccan capital Rabat is available to assist the investigation.

The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that, although it had informed Jespersen’s family she was considered to be one of the victims, it had not yet in fact received official confirmation from Moroccan authorities. The ministry did not wish to comment further.


Morocco death penalties confirmed for killers of Scandinavian hikers

A Moroccan anti-terrorist court on Wednesday confirmed death sentences handed down against three men convicted of beheading two Scandinavian tourists last December, and sentenced a fourth man to be executed.

Morocco death penalties confirmed for killers of Scandinavian hikers
Moroccan police stand guard during the trial in Sale earlier this year. Photo: AFP

All four defendants had been convicted at a trial in July, but the fourth defendant was originally sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the two women, killed while hiking in the High Atlas mountains.

Those sentenced to death included ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud, a street vendor and underground imam, who had confessed to orchestrating the attack with two other radicalised Moroccans.

They had admitted killing 24-year-old Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland in murders that shocked the North African country.

Although the death penalty remains legal in Morocco, there have been no executions there since 1993 because of a moratorium, and the issue of capital punishment is a matter of political debate.

The court in Sale, near Rabat, confirmed jail sentences of between five and 30 years against 19 other men, but increased the jail sentence of another man from 15 to 20 years.

The court also confirmed an order for the three men who carried out the killings and their accomplices to pay two million dirhams (190,000 euros) in compensation to Ueland's family.

But it refused a request from the Jespersen family for 10 million dirhams in compensation from the Moroccan state for its “moral responsibility”.

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