Rabat – The government’s spokesperson, Mustapha El Khalfi, gave a press conference today on the murders of two tourists from Norway and Denmark on Monday, December 17.
According to El Khalfi, the weekly cabinet meeting was opened to address the “sad event of the death of two foreign tourists in the region of Imlil.”
El Khalfi’s comments on the murder are the first official statement from the government.
El Khalfi said that Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani said that “all Moroccans denounce and reject this criminal terrorist act” and that “it is strange to Moroccan values and traditions, especially the traditions in that region.”
The murder, discovered when the bodies of two women tourists were found on Monday, is unprecedented in the region, a popular site for hiking and camping.
El Othmani, according to El Khalfi, said that such “terrorist acts” are a “stab in our back.” The government also commended “authorities, security and gendarmeries, auxiliaries forces and all institutions that monitor the security and stability of the country.”
El Khalfi referenced Morocco’s involvement in counterterrorism with a comprehensive approach led by King Mohammed VI.
El Khalfi said Morocco has dismantled around 20 cells accused of terrorism since last year.
He said that it is not “an easy job.” He added that there is no “development, stability, reform or progress without security.”
El Khalfi said that security services were quick to arrest the four suspects involved in the murders, 10 kilometers from the village of Imlil.
Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) arrested the first suspect on Tuesday, a day after authorities found the bodies of the tourists.
BCIJ arrested three more suspects Thursday morning.
El Khalfi confirmed that one of the suspects is from a “radicalized” group, but has not shared further information on whether the suspects have ties with ISIS or any terrorism group.
Danish intelligence suspect the murder was inspired by ISIS after a video went viral on social media Wednesday night, showing a man murdering a foreign tourist.
The video records two voices speaking in Darija (Moroccan Arabic). One of the men was saying, “ This is a revenge for our brothers in Hajin.” The man was referring to a small town in eastern Syria that was ISIS’ last holdout.
Danish security services deemed the video authentic, according to the Guardian.
Morocco World News asked El Khalfi about the government’s official position on the video, but he said that it is still under investigation to determine its authenticity.
El Khalfi warned Moroccans not to share the video on social media. “You know the law,” he said.
Local media reported that investigators from Norway are contributing to the investigation. El Khalfi, however, did not confirm it.
Tourism not yet affected
After the murder, local news outlets speculated that tourism will be affected negatively. El Khalfi denied the concerns, saying that there are lots of tourists coming to Morocco, and the government has not received any statistics about tourists’ cancellation requests.
Guides in the area confirmed to Morocco World News that they have not received any cancellation requests from international tourists since the murder.
“It will be hard for tourists to find an available hotel room in hotels in Marrakech and in the region, especially because many tourists have already booked places to spend their Christmas holiday,” one tourism worker told MWN.