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.


Egypt militant returned from Libya back on trial: media

Updated 27 min ago
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Egypt militant returned from Libya back on trial: media

  • Hisham Al-Ashmawy’s retrial was being held in a military court
  • He is ‘accused of carrying out terror operations against the army, police forces and civilians’

CAIRO: An Egyptian militant captured in Libya and returned to Cairo was put on trial again Tuesday over five terror attacks, including one for which he has already received a death sentence in absentia, according to local media.
Hisham Al-Ashmawy — one of the country’s most-wanted militants — “is accused of carrying out terror operations against the army, police forces and civilians” killing 54 people in total, news website Ahram reported.
His retrial was being held in a military court, the site said.
He was sentenced to death in 2017 in absentia by an Egyptian military court over his involvement in attacking and killing soldiers at a checkpoint near the porous border with Libya.
Authorities have also linked Ashmawy with high-profile attacks including a 2013 assassination attempt on then-interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim and the 2015 killing of a top public prosecutor.
The militant was flown back to Cairo in May, after being handed over by Libyan National Army chief Khalifa Haftar whose forces captured him in 2018 in the eastern city of Derna.
Haftar, who is leading a military offensive against the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, seized the city of Derna last summer. His forces are backed in particular by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
A former officer with Egypt’s special forces, Ashmawy was dismissed in 2012 over concerns about his religious views.
He joined the Sinai-based Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis but broke with the group after it pledged allegiance to the Daesh group in November 2014.
Known by his nom de guerre “Abu Omar Al-MuHajjir,” Ashmawy announced the formation of an Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Al-Mourabitoun in Libya in July 2015.
He is also accused of being behind attacks in Egypt’s Western Desert region.