Louisa Vesterager, 24 years old, from Denmark and Maren Ueland, 28 years old, from Norway, were two hiking friends who had set out to spend a few weeks in Morocco discovering the trail of the Atlas mountains. Yesterday, they were found with their throats cut inside their tent in a possible stunning blow for the country’s already struggling tourism sector. Rumours in the Scandinavian press say the girls were raped and beheaded.
The Moroccan police arrested a suspect of the murder and local media reported that the judiciary is still looking for two other suspects.
The two tourists were found dead Monday in the vicinity of Imlil in the Atlas Mountains, about 55 kilometers south of the city of Marrakesh.
According to the media, French alpinists found the two victims in their tent in a remote area in the mountains. The Atlas Mountains are very high in the region and from Imlil many tourists make mountain trips, for example to the mountain Toubkal, which is more than 4.160 meters high.
A suspect has been arrested in the city of Marrakesh on suspicion of murder, according to Moroccan authorities.
A man was being held in custody "to determine the motive of the crime while investigations continue to arrest other individuals who have been identified and suspected of taking part in criminal acts", the central bureau of judicial investigation said in a statement.
Maren Ueland's mother Irene told public broadcaster NRK that the pair had been studying together at the University of South-Eastern Norway and had gone backpacking for their Christmas holiday on 9 December.
Moroccan tourism was the only remaining destination in Northern Africa that had pretty much been able to sustain its tourism numbers after the terrorist attacks in other countries wiped out billions from their GDP when European tourists decided to stay away. Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia all had thriving tourism sectors only a decade ago, but the results of the Arab spring changed all that.
The terrorist groups that were formed when the tough dictatorial rule was released meant that planes were bombed (Egypt), tourists attacked on beaches and in museums (Tunisia) or airports blown up and thousands of opposition figures arrested (Turkey). Although Morocco did see a bomb set off in the Marrakesh main square, the infrastructure already in place and certainly the many French living there meant it could continue to do tourism business with the Europeans in the past few years.
All the other countries took a serious hit and European tourists chose to stay in the Mediterranean European destinations instead (Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Croatia and Greece).
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