Morocco arrests suspect after murder of two Scandinavian women

Tourists were found with their throats cut in an isolated area on the way to North Africa's highest peak of Toubkal.

    Police officers stand next to a tent at the scene where the bodies of two Scandinavian women were found [AFP]
    Police officers stand next to a tent at the scene where the bodies of two Scandinavian women were found [AFP]

    Moroccan authorities have arrested a suspect in connection with the murder of two Scandinavian tourists in the High Atlas mountains, the interior ministry said.

    The man was arrested in Marrakech, the largest tourist hub in Morocco.

    Other suspects were being sought over the deaths of the women, a Dane and a Norwegian, whose bodies were found with their throats slit, the ministry said on Tuesday.

    The Danish victim, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, "had her throat cut", Danish newspaper BT cited her mother as saying.

    Her family had warned her against going to Morocco "because of the chaotic situation", she added.

    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 NRK.

    Their bodies were found in an isolated area on the way to North Africa's highest peak of Toubkal.

    Toubkal is a popular trekking and hiking destination 82km south of Marrakech.

    According to NRK, both were students at the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) and they were on a trip to Morocco for Christmas holiday.

    They were planning to spend a month in the country, according to Petter Aasen, rector at USN.

    An investigation has been opened to determine the circumstances of the "criminal incident". The police reportedly blocked the roads in the region where the killings occurred.

    A Norwegian policeman from the embassy in Rabat is travelling to Marrakesh to act as a liaison between the authorities.

    'Bad for the region' 

    Security was stepped up in the area and hiking suspended following the discovery of the bodies, Moroccan media said.

    "It's very bad for the region. There will undoubtedly be cancellations," a local guide, Hossein, told AFP news agency 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.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies