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Terror Seen as Motive for Brutal Killing of Female Tourists

Moroccan authorities have arrested three people in connection with the killing of two female Scandinavian tourists in Morocco’s remote Atlas mountain region, authorities said Thursday.

The Danish intelligence agency said the killings may be related to Islamic extremism, the Associated Press reported, and a Moroccan national security spokesman told the news agency that authorities are investigating whether the three have terrorists connections. Another person was arrested Tuesday and may also have ties to an extremist group, a Moroccan prosecutor said.

The victims – Louisa Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway – were students at the University of South-Eastern Norway and had gone backpacking for the Christmas holiday, Ueland’s mother told Norwegian public broadcasting company NRK. Their bodies were discovered inside a tent by hikers in the High Atlas mountain range on Monday.

A video posted online appeared to show a man cutting one of the victim’s neck with a knife, and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service said it had authenticated the video.

The three people arrested Thursday were between the ages of 25 and 33 and were shepherds in the area.

“What should have been a holiday trip turned into a nightmare,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen told reporters in Denmark, according to the AP. The news agency quoted Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway, as saying that terrorism was not the only angle being investigated but that the killings emphasize “the importance of combating violent extremism.”

Morocco is typically a safe and popular destination for tourists, though the country had struggled with Islamic extremism in recent years. According to the Times, thousands of Moroccans have joined the Islamic State. The last terrorist attack occured in 2011, when a bomb killed 17 people in a cafe in Marrakesh.

Both Denmark and Norway have issued travel advisories warning their citizens to be cautious when visiting Morocco.

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