Morocco Suspects Extremist Agenda Behind Killing of Tourists

(Bloomberg) -- Morocco has arrested four suspects, one of whom it said belonged to an extremist group, over the killing of two Scandinavian backpackers near the country’s main tourist destination just before the busy Christmas holiday season.

Three people were detained on Thursday in Marrakesh on suspicion of participating in the murder of the two women -- one from Denmark and the other a Norwegian -- earlier this week, the Central Bureau of Judiciary Investigation said in a statement. The suspects are being questioned to verify a “terrorist hypothesis” that’s backed up by evidence from the investigation.

The arrests came hours after the prosecutor general announced that a fourth suspect, who was taken into custody on Tuesday, “belongs to an extremist group.”

The bodies of the two women were found near their camp Monday in Imlil, a village to the south of Marrakesh that’s tucked in the Atlas mountains popular with trekkers and mountain climbers. State news agency MAP said the two died from wounds inflicted to the neck with a blade-like weapon.

The killings, if proven to be connected to militants, could signal a dangerous development in a nation largely spared the Islamist-fueled violence that’s gripped other North African countries such as Tunisia and Egypt. Moroccan media has occasionally reported on the break-up of suspected terrorist cells which officials said were linked to Islamic State.

The nation relies on tourism for jobs and foreign currency. The last terrorist attack was in 2011 when 17 tourists, most of them French, died after a radical militant detonated a homemade bomb in a busy cafe in the heart of Marrakesh. Security services have arrested dozens of purported militants since then for allegedly plotting attacks.

Investigators are also probing the authenticity of a video circulating on social media which appears to document the killing of the two tourists, the prosecutor general said.

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