ISIS terrorists who slaughtered two Scandinavian tourists in Morocco say they targeted British tourists
A gang of extremists who beheaded two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco almost murdered a British tourist instead but let him go after he said he was a Muslim.
The bloodthirsty gang, who were allegedly looking for westerners to murder on behalf of ISIS, spotted the elderly Briton in the Atlas mountains on December 17, Moroccan counter-terror investigators said.
The group befriended him before asking what his religion was, and when he revealed he was a Muslim, they allowed him to continue on his way.
But an hour later the same group met Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, and murdered them both.
The attackers filmed one of the women being beheaded, with gruesome footage circulated among ISIS forums online.
Fifteen men have since been charged with terrorism offenses over the crime.
Moroccan counter-terror chief Abdelhak Khiam said the arrested men revealed they spoke to a Briton before the two women showed up.
He added that it is not clear whether the man was actually a Muslim, or whether he lied his way out of danger.
The charges include forming a gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts and premeditated murder, Morocco’s public prosecutor said in a statement.
Three of the suspects face additional charges for allegedly urging the others to commit acts of terrorism.
The 15 suspects were referred to an investigating judge who handles terror-related cases. More suspects are expected to be charged in the coming days.
It comes after Moroccan authorities arrested a Swiss-Spanish national in connection with the murders.
The Scandinavian hikers had set up camp at an isolated mountain site around two hours from the tourist village of Imlil when they were attacked.
Video purporting to show the attack has been circulated on ISIS forums, and shows one man brandishing a large knife saying in Arabic ‘it is Allah’s will’.
The man arrested on Saturday is also suspected of ‘involvement in recruiting Moroccan and sub-Saharan nationals to carry out terrorist plots in Morocco against foreign targets and security forces in order to take hold of their service weapons’, the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) said.
Nineteen other men have been arrested in connection with the case, including four main suspects who had pledged allegiance to ISIS in a video made three days before the tourists’ bodies were found.
Police and domestic intelligence spokesman Boubker Sabik this week described the four men as ‘lone wolves’, and said ‘the crime was not coordinated with Islamic State’.
Ms Ueland and Ms Vesterager Jespersen, who were studying to be outdoor guides at a Norwegian university, were spotted with three men in Marrakesh before heading to the Atlas mountains to hike.
They had been travelling around the country as part of a month-long trekking holiday.
Last week hundreds of people from Malen’s hometown of Bryne turned out to hold a candlelit vigil, including her friends and family members.
It was emphasised that the event was not a memorial, but a way to show support and compassion to Malen’s loved ones.
‘It’s important to stand together and be important for people to show solidarity,’ Thor Inge Sveinsvoll, manager of the Rogaland county Red Cross, told Norway’s Aftenposten.
‘We want to show that we care about each other, and that we are together for a kinder world,’ said Odd Ivar Nese, one of the organisers.
It has also emerged that the two women were ‘happy and sociable’ in their final days, according to Rachid Imerhade, a mountain guide who had met the two friends a few days before their deaths.
He said: ‘They were smiling, chatty and sociable. They talked a lot with the other people around.’
Jespersen’s mother, Helle Petersen, told the Danish newspaper B.T. that her daughter was ‘always happy and positive. Everyone loved her and she saw the best in everyone’.
Compared with other countries in North Africa, Morocco has been largely insulated from militant attacks.
The most recent took place in April 2011, when 17 people were killed in the bombing of a restaurant in Marrakech. In 2017 and 2018, Morocco said it dismantled 20 militant cells planning attacks in the country.
Source: Daily Mail