On December 18, 2018, the world was shocked to learn that police in the North African nation of Morocco had arrested a suspect connected to the gruesome murder of two female hikers in the Atlas Mountains the day before.
The murder scene was discovered about six miles from Imlil in a remote and isolated area. One woman had been beheaded and the other had deep throat wounds.
The perpetrator was apprehended in Marrakesh, about 40 miles from the crime scene. Officials said they were looking for other suspects involved in the atrocity.
Louisa Vesterager Jespersen (24) hailed from Denmark. Her companion Maren Ueland (28) was from Norway. Both women were science students at the university in Bove, Denmark. An unidentified man on the scene said the two young women were backpacking without a guide and camped “somewhere near the Club Alpin Francais refuge at the base of Mount Toubkal.”
Imlil is a popular starting point for hikers who want to climb Mount Toubkal, which has the distinction of being the highest mountain peak in North Africa.
Immediately after the incident was reported, the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior confirmed that the two women’s corpses were found with “signs of violence on their necks…caused by a cutting device.”
Rumors that the women had been beheaded began to circulate.
This first official report termed the murder a criminal act.
Earlier in December, Jespersen had asked for tips on Facebook from “any mountain friends” with knowledge about Mount Toubkal.
In an interview with the Danish newspaper BT, Louisa’s mother, Helle Jespersen, claimed she had warned her daughter not to go:
“We advised her to go down because it’s such a chaotic place, and you’ve heard of people who have been killed down there.”
Two days after the double execution was reported, on Dec. 20, Morten Bøås, speaking for the Norwegian Department of Foreign Affairs, said “the group of men may have been inspired by ISIS or radicalized through the web.”
On Dec. 24, The Local, a Norwegian newspaper, indicated that the hikers had been killed by “suspected jihadists.” Four suspects had been arrested. Each had “pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.” Authorities detained nine others.
On Dec. 27, someone – either criminal investigators or the perps themselves – added insult to injury by posting on the Facebook page of Irene Ueland, the grieving mother of Maren, “uncensored images of the severed and partially severed heads of two Scandinavian tourists murdered in the Moroccan mountains,” according to the News from Australia.
Officials now have 13 suspects in custody and are terming them “terrorists.” They believe that four members of this gang journeyed to the Atlas Mountains “intent on committing a crime, but had not selected a target in advance.” Moroccan and Danish authorities are looking for a link between the sadistic, sociopathic, raping murderers to Islamic extremism.
Officials said the group acted on their own initiative – “even though they had just pledged allegiance to Islamic State.”
A video showing the decapitation of one of the women is making the social media rounds. The Australian News described the shocking footage:
“In the video, two male voices can be heard shouting at the women in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) as one of the killers is seen sawing at Ms Jespersen’s neck with a large knife.”
One of the murderers stated, “This is a revenge for our brothers in Hajin,” meaning the small Syrian town and ISIS stronghold that was liberated two weeks ago by Syrian Democratic Forces.
Tales of murderous gangs roaming the land with a religious agenda to decapitate all non-believers are very bad for tourism. But with tourism counting for only 5 percent of the Moroccan economy, is there enough financial incentive for the Muslim government to tighten up national security for visitors?