Raids by Moroccan police hunting the killers of two Scandinavian hikers, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen (24) from Denmark, and Maren Ueland (28) from Norway, have unwittingly helped foil a terror plot. Officers found bomb-making materials, and "spared Morocco a terrorist plot", a spokesman for the country's intelligence services said, as quoted by Reuters.
During multiple raids and roundups, materials that could be used for bomb-making, electronic devices, knives and unauthorised hunting rifles were found, domestic intelligence spokesman Boubker Sabik told the Moroccan 2M TV channel.
In a video made three days before allegedly stalking and butchering the defenceless Scandinavian tourists, the four main suspects, aged between 25 and 30 years, had sworn an oath of allegiance to Daesh. However, they didn't coordinate their actions with any group in advance, Sabik said. He described the four main suspects as "lone wolves", stressing that the crime was not coordinated with Daesh despite their previous oath of allegiance. Nor did Daesh claim responsibility for the deaths.
Denmark, Norway, and Morocco are currently all investigating a separate video, showing what appears to be the beheading of Jespersen. In the video, which bears resemblance to Daesh propaganda clips featuring executions of Western prisoners, a man severs the head of a blindfolded woman with a knife. Norwegian and Danish officials said the video was authentic and likely linked to Daesh.
Compared with other countries in Maghreb or the Middle East, Morocco has been largely spared militant attacks. The most recent took place in April 2011, when 17 people were killed in the bombing of a restaurant in Marrakesh. In 2017 and 2018, however, Morocco dismantled 20 terrorist cells planning attacks in the country, whose thriving tourism industry makes terrorism highly unwelcome for the economy.
Jespersen and Ueland were found dead near the village of Imlil en route to Toubkal, North Africa's and the Arab world's highest peak, which is also a popular hiking and trekking destination.
* Daesh, also known as ISIS/IS/Islamic State, is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.