Moroccan suspects in killing of Scandinavian women were acting alone, official says

Morocco vigils for murdered Scandinavian tourists

Moroccans hold vigils in honour of Scandinavian women killed in mountains

Nine more people have been arrested over the killing of two Scandinavian university students in a remote corner of Morocco's Atlas Mountains, bringing the total arrests to 13. However, they didn't coordinate their actions with any group in advance, Sabik said.

The bodies of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark and Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway were found Monday in an isolated area near Imlil, often the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak and a popular hiking destination.

Moroccan authorities said on Thursday that four other suspects arrested following the murder of the two tourists had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group.

The new suspects were detained across the country for their "alleged links with the perpetrators of the terrorist act", Morocco's central bureau of judicial investigations said.

Louisa Jespersen from Denmark and Maren Ueland from Norway were found dead in Morocco's High Atlas Mountains on December 18, with "evidence of violence to their necks".

Sabik, the Moroccan security services spokesman, said on Sunday: "The crime was not coordinated with Islamic State".

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Nine of the 18 men were arrested on Friday. Investigators have said the four men shot a video the week before the murders in which they pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"I am deeply touched by the kind reactions of the Moroccan people after the tragic event", the Norwegian ambassador to Morocco said in a statement.

Disturbing images of the severed and partially severed heads of one of the murdered backpackers were reportedly also placed on the Facebook page of the heartbroken mother, according to the report. In Norway, police said it is likely authentic.

On Saturday, a gathering will be held outside the Norwegian embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat in support of the families of the victims and to condemn terrorism.

In the southern village of Imlil, near where the bodies of the two hikers were found, hundreds of people paid their respects, while dozens more laid flowers and lit candles in tourist hub city Marrakesh.

Tourism is a cornerstone of Morocco's economy and the kingdom's second-largest employer, after agriculture. The last major terrorist attack in Morocco took place in 2011 when a bomb exploded in a Marrakesh square, killing 17 people, a lot of them European tourists.

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