Moroccan security officials investigating the murder of two European backpackers stumbled across a terrorist cell trying to link itself to ISIS.
As of Dec. 21, 13 people had been arrested in connection with the brutal murders, which were filmed and posted online.
Four of the killers also posted videos pledging their lives to the ISIS terrorist group and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. ISIS has not acknowledged the people as members, nor claimed responsibility for the killings.
Morocco says police accidentally foiled a terror plot while hunting the killers of two Scandinavian backpackers https://t.co/k9kGKaE8aF
— INSIDER (@thisisinsider) December 24, 2018
The Danish intelligence service, Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET) stated on Dec. 20, “The video and preliminary investigation according to the Moroccan authorities indicate that the killings may be related to the terrorist organization Islamic State,” Reuters reported.
Moroccan Police spokesman Boubker Sabik described the four as “lone wolves,” acting without official sanction from ISIS. “The crime was not coordinated with Islamic State,” he said, according to This Insider. “Lone wolves do not need permission from their leader.”
Sabik did not say how Moroccan authorities had reached this conclusion.
Morocco’s Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations said the nine men arrested on Dec. 21 were carrying weapons and materials which could be used to make bombs, the Star Tribune reported.
So it took 13 men to end the life of two great friends that celebrate life. This goes beyond terrorism, and we must stop using terrorism to describe barbarism. The world must remove antisocial person willing to harm happiness and society well being. https://t.co/I5ryGKgDWB
— Gustavo Torres (@CPAGtorres) December 24, 2018
Tourists Hiking in the Mountains
The two young ladies, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, both lived in southern Norway where they were enrolled in college.
The women were hiking in the Atlas Mountain range, which spans the border between Morocco and Algeria. They first traveled to the village of Imlil, which is commonly used as a starting point for hikes up Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak.
Before departing, Jespersen had asked her Facebook friends for tips on hiking in the Atlas Mountains, Reuters reported.
“Dear friends, I’m going to Morocco in December. Any of you guys who’s around by then or any mountain friends who knows something about Mount Toubkal?” she posted.
Dear friends, im going to Morocco in december. Any of you guys whos around by then or any mountain friends who knows something about Mount Toubkal? 🤘🤗⛰
A party of French hikers found the bodies a little over six miles from the village, at the head of a trial up to the peak.
“It was horrible. They were broken,” one of the French hikers told News.com. “We warned everyone we saw in Imlil not to go up there. I did not want more to see what we had seen…It was a big shock, we’re thinking about it all day. It makes you think about what’s important in life.”
The women’s bodies were found on Dec. 17. The first suspect had been identified and arrested by Dec. 19, at which time Moroccan police spokesman Boubker Sabik told Reuters, “We are working to bring before justice three other suspects on the run.”
Two days later, those three and nine more had been apprehended.
6. ISIS has not claimed the murder but the group typically doesn't claim attacks when their followers are in custody. So we may never have an official claim. At a minimum, the European officials I am speaking to consider this an attack inspired by the group.
— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) December 21, 2018
The video of the killings shows one of the women, apparently Louisa Jespersen, being beheaded with a kitchen knife. It was posted on Dec. 19.
A person in the village of Imlil told a Reuters reporter that one of the bodies was found it the women’s tent, while the other was outside on the ground.
Moroccan authorities said the video was not taken where the women’s bodies were found.
Some people are using social media to urge others not to watch the videos.
So heartbroken and terrible what happened in Morocco with those beautiful girls ; Rest in peace Maren Ueland and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen
Warning if you come across the video please do not watch it for the sake of your own mental & emotional health. pic.twitter.com/g5ePHZmvnf
— Ornella ♡. (@hsftangel) December 20, 2018
According to the Star Tribune, Norwegian police believe that the part of the video showing at least one of the murders is authentic.
Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service, after analyzing video, stated, “There is no concrete evidence indicating the video is not real.”
2. The bodies of the tourists – 24-year-old Louisa Jespersen of Denmark & 28-year-old Maren Ueland of Norway – were found at the head of a trail in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. I watched the horrific video and it's hard to even find words to describe the brutality it contained. pic.twitter.com/9VyGccBL1V
— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) December 21, 2018
Revenge for Hajin
In the video of the beheading, one of the terrorists can be heard saying, “This is a revenge for our brothers in Hajin.”
Hajin is a small town in Syria where ISIS forces were fighting Kurdish forces backed by the United States, prior to the United States ending its involvement in the area.
Morocco has mostly avoided the terrorist violence that has struck other North African states. A restaurant bombing in 2011 which claimed the lives of 17 people was the last major attack the nation had suffered.
In 2015, Morocco formed the Bureau for Judicial Investigations, dedicated to eradicating terror cells and stopping terrorist plots.
The Bureau claims it has broken up 57 cells since its inception, including eight in 2018.
From NTD News