1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Bodies of backpackers flown home from Morocco

December 21, 2018

The bodies of the Danish and Norwegian backpackers murdered in Morocco have been flown home. Moroccan authorities said 13 suspects have been arrested in connection with the women's deaths.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen
Image: Reuters/Bovec Sports Center Archive

UPDATE: Hundreds hold vigil across Morocco

The bodies of 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark and 28-year-old Maren Ueland from Norway were flown to Copenhagen from Casablanca on Friday.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the killings "a brutal and meaningless attack on innocent people, which we react to with disgust and condemnation."

Authentic video

Police in Norway said on Friday that footage circulating on social media showing a woman in underpants screaming as a man decapitates her with what appears to be a kitchen knife was likely authentic.

Norway's National Criminal Investigation Service said that "there is no concrete evidence indicating the video is not real." 

They were found by fellow tourists on Monday with their heads removed.

Investigators are trying to find out where the women had been before they set off for the village of Imlil, a frequent starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak. The women were found about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the village.

Morocco's Atlas Mountains - A Troubled Region

Killings linked to terrorism

The Moroccan Bureau for Judicial Investigations said that the evidence so far indicated a terrorist motive.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen appeared to agree with the assessment, saying that the murders were "politically motivated and thus an act of terror."

Moroccan authorities said some of the suspects had pledged allegiance to the "Islamic State" group. 

Rare occurrence

Morocco has largely avoided the terrorist violence prevalent in other North African countries. In 2015 the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations was set up and has so far broken up 57 militant cells, including eight in 2018. 

More than 1,000 young Moroccans have joined militant groups in the Middle East.

Tourism accounts for about 10 percent of the Moroccan economy and is the kingdom's second-largest employer, after agriculture. It's also the main source of foreign currency.

After the killing, authorities in Denmark and Norway warned their citizens against hiking without local guides in Morocco.

jm, aw/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.