Moroccans and international tourists are struggling to cope with the murders of two Scandinavian tourists, especially after a video purportedly showing the murder has gone viral.
Rabat – Here is a recap of all the events in the murders of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Maren Ueland, two Scandinavians tourists, near Mount Toubkal, from the day their bodies were found to the arrest of thirteen suspects.
Monday: A shocking discovery
On Monday morning, authorities found the bodies of two tourists from Denmark and Norway 10 kilometers from Imlil, a village in the High Atlas Mountains known for hiking and other outdoor activities among local and international tourists.
The news was widely shared on social media, but no further details were released about the identities of the victims or any possible suspects or motives.
After the murder, Moroccan police swarmed to the region to investigate and find evidence.
A statement from authorities revealed after the bodies were found that the Scandinavians were murdered because their bodies had evidence of violence with knife wounds.
Shockwaves and fear spread across the country and speculations ran wild, leaving people anxious to know more about the suspects and the victims.
Tuesday: The first suspect is caught
Until Tuesday morning, Morocco’s security services had not issued any updates since the initial news about the murder.
On Tuesday morning, Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) arrested one suspect in the case.
The statement from the BCIJ released the first findings of the preliminary investigation, stating that the suspect was put in custody for further investigation into other possible suspects.
While some people speculated that robbery or rape was the motive, others predicted the murderer would turn out to be a mentally ill person.
International journalists started questioning whether the murder could be related to terrorism because BCIJ is known in the international community for being specifically tasked to handle terror-related crimes.
Still on Tuesday, a local from the village of Imlil revealed to Morocco World News that robbery was not the motive because none of the victims’ belongings were missing. The source, however, did not exclude sexual assault as a possible motive.
After the arrest of the first suspect, the identities of the murdered Scandinavians were revealed. Louisa Veterager Jespersen was a 24-year-old tourist who came from Denmark to hike the highest mountain in North Africa, Mount Toubkal.
Her mother said in an interview that she pleaded with her daughter to avoid Morocco “because of the chaotic situation.”
Louisa was studying to become a travel guide in Norway.
The other victim, Maren Ueland, was a 28-year-old from Norway. She came to Morocco from Norway with Louisa.
Maren’s mother announced in an interview that both girls were studying together at the University of South-Eastern Norway.
They left Norway on December 9 to spend their holiday backpacking in Morocco.
Wednesday: Potential link to terrorism
Authorities discovered more information on Wednesday. The public prosecutor at Rabat’s Court of Appeals announced in a statement that the suspect in custody was part of a “radicalized” group. The statement hinted that the crime might be a potential terror crime
On Wednesday evening, Moroccan Facebook users began talking about a horrific a video allegedly of the murder. In the video, a man beheads a blonde woman as she screams and cries for help. While the first man was committing the crime, another man filmed the terrible deed.
The men spoke to each other in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) as well as in standard Arabic, saying they were acting to avenge Hajin, a city in eastern Syria recently retaken from ISIS.
The nightmarish video left some hoping that it was not related to the crime due to its graphic content.
The public prosecutor, however, said that security services were investigating whether the video truly belonged to the incident. Wednesday ended after a source told Morocco World News that three more suspects were involved in the murder.
Thursday: Escape attempt and more arrests
After the graphic video was widely shared among internet users, BCIJ arrested three more suspects involved in the crime Thursday morning. They were arrested while on a bus leaving Marrakech for Agadir.
Another video of the arrested suspects shook Morocco on Thursday. The four arrested suspects appeared in the new video pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In the video, posted on Twitter by an anonymous user, one of the men quotes part of a Qur’annic verse (9:29), “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger.”
After Morocco’s weekly cabinet meeting on Thursday, Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi denounced the murder, describing it as a terror act.
El Khalfi, however, did not comment on the veracity of the video circulating on social media. He said that investigations were still underway to determine whether the video was related to the crime.
Friday: 9 more suspects arrested
After the arrest of four suspects, BCIJ arrested nine more suspects for alleged involvement in the murders of the Scandinavian tourists. The arrest took place on Thursday and Friday across the country, including Tangier, Marrakech, and Casablanca.
Commenting on the alleged video of the murder, police in Norway said that there is no evidence that the graphic footage was unreal.
Moroccans also launched a petition on Change.org to call the Moroccan government to give the death penalty to the suspects.
Some Moroccans agreed to gather in front of the embassies of Norway and Denmark in Rabat to honor the victims at 5 p.m. on Saturday.