Three arrests in Morocco tourist murder

A composite image shows two blonde women in an outdoor environmentImage copyright
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Maren Ueland, left, and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen were found dead in a popular tourist area

The “bestial” murder of two young women in Morocco is being investigated as a terror attack, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said.

Three men were arrested Thursday morning over the murder of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway.

The pair were found dead from knife wounds near a popular tourist spot on Monday.

At least one of the suspects has been linked to an Islamic extremist group.

One person had already been arrested on Monday, hours after the bodies of the two women were discovered with injuries to their necks. Police also supplied photos of the three other suspects, prompting a 72-hour manhunt for the men.

Moroccan news outlet 2M said the three arrested on Thursday were all shepherds, and had been arrested in the city of Marrakesh.

Shortly after the prime minister’s statement, Danish intelligence said they had verified as genuine a video circulating online, which allegedly showed one of the two women being murdered.

But Reuters news agency quoted a police source as saying that the video appeared to have been filmed in a different place from where the bodies were found.

“We do not know the circumstances, but there are many indications that the cruel killing may be a terrorist act,” Mr Rasmussen said earlier, when the video had yet to be authenticated.

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Moroccan police released a photo of the three suspects

Ms Jespersen and Ms Ueland had travelled together to Morocco for a month-long holiday on 9 December, including a trip in the Atlas Mountains.

They had been hiking in area near Imil, close to Africa’s highest mountain peak Mount Toubkal – an area popular with hikers and climbers. They were found dead inside the tent they shared.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg decried the “brutal and meaningless attack on innocent people”, and said she had trust in the Moroccan authorities to find those responsible.

Maren Ueland’s mother Irene told public broadcaster NRK that the pair had been studying together at the University of South-Eastern Norway. Both are reported to have been experienced with outdoor activities, and to have prepared well for the hiking trip, which they took without a local guide.

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