Morocco arrests Swiss citizen in connection with killing of Scandinavian hikers

Morocco arrested a Swiss national on Saturday in connection with the killing of two Scandinavian women, the counter-terrorism agency said.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway were found dead early on Dec. 17 near the village of Imlil in the Atlas Mountains.

The man arrested 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.

It said he also held Spanish nationality with residence in Morocco.

The bodies of hikers Ueland, left, and Jespersen were found earlier this month in a remote region of the Atlas Mountains, Morocco. (NTB Scanpix/Reuters, Bovec Sports Center Archive/Reuters)

Nineteen other men have been arrested in connection with the case, including four main suspects who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State 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."

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.

This composite of photos provided Thursday by Moroccan TV service 2M shows three unidentified suspects in the killing of two Scandinavian tourists in Morocco. Following Saturday's arrest, 20 men have been arrested in connection with the case. (2M/Associated Press)

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