Morocco arrests suspect after two Scandinavian tourists murdered

An image grab taken from a video broadcast in Morocco's news channel KECH24 on December 18, 2018 shows a view of the crime scene where the bodies of two Scandinavian women were found the day before in an isolated mountainous area 10 kilometres (six miles) from the tourist village of Imlil in the High Atlas range.(AFP)
Updated 18 December 2018
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Morocco arrests suspect after two Scandinavian tourists murdered

  • A suspect was arrested and others are being sought over the killings of the Danish and Norwegian hikers who were found dead

RABAT: Moroccan authorities on Tuesday arrested a suspect over the murder of two Scandinavian women in the High Atlas mountains, a popular trekking destination for tourists.
Other suspects are being sought over the killings of the Danish and Norwegian hikers who were found dead on Monday with cuts to their necks, the interior ministry said.
The bodies were discovered in an isolated mountainous area 10 kilometers (six miles) from the tourist village of Imlil in the High Atlas range.
Imlil is a starting point for trekking and climbing tours of Mount Toubkal, which at 4,167 meters is the highest summit in North Africa.
The suspect was arrested in the former imperial city of Marrakesh, a tourist hub located at the foot of the mountains about 60 kilometers north of Imlil, and held in custody for questioning, the ministry said.
The Moroccan authorities described it as a “criminal act” but did not give further details about the circumstances of the murders.
The Danish victim, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, “had her throat cut,” her mother Helle Petersen was quoted by the Danish newspaper B.T. as saying.
Her family had warned her against going to Morocco “because of the chaotic situation,” she added.
According to her Facebook page, Jespersen had studied in Norway to be a guide.
Norwegian media named the other victim as 28-year-old Maren Ueland.
“Her priority was safety. The girls took every precaution before going on this trip,” her mother Irene Ueland told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
The two women studied at a university in southern Norway and had planned to travel together for a month, she said, adding that her last contact with her daughter was on December 9.
A Norwegian policeman from the embassy in Rabat is traveling to Marrakesh to act as a liaison between the authorities.
Security was stepped up in the region and hiking suspended following the discovery of the bodies, Moroccan media said.
“It’s very bad for the region. There will undoubtedly be cancelations,” a local guide, Hossein, told AFP from Imlil.
Tourism is a cornerstone of Morocco’s economy and the kingdom’s second-largest employer, after agriculture.
The sector accounts for 10 percent of national income and is one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency.
After several years of near-stagnation, Morocco welcomed a record 11.35 million visitors in 2017, exceeding the 11-million mark for the first time.


US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

Updated 21 January 2019
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US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

  • Former envoy Brett McGurk says the absence of a plan is increasing the risk to US forces
  • Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, Daesh had been defeated

WASHINGTON: The United States has no plan for Syria as it proceeds with President Donald Trump’s order to pull American troops out of the country, a top official who quit in protest at the policy said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who was America’s envoy to the US-led global coalition against the Daesh group, said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to US forces.
He spoke in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Daesh group.
The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.
Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although how long it would take remained uncertain.
“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”
But he added: “Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force... It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for Daesh,” another acronym for IS.
Most importantly, said McGurk, the US cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States.
“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”
Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, IS had been defeated — something McGurk and other experts dispute.
McGurk has previously warned that the US pullout would shore up Syria’s President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.