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Four suspects have been taken into custody by Moroccan authorities in connection with the murders of two Scandinavian women whose bodies were discovered earlier this week in the country’s High Atlas Mountains.
A video purportedly showing the beheading of one of the victims has been authenticated by Danish intelligence, who confirmed Wednesday that the killings can be connected to ISIS.
On Monday, 24-year-old Dane Louisa Jespersen and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland were found dead by fellow hikers in an isolated area six miles from the tourist village of Imlil. The women’s bodies had been mutilated, and investigators say they were both sexually assaulted.
Earlier reports said that detectives believed the attacks were sexually motivated, but authorities now say Islamic extremism is behind the gruesome murders. According to the Daily Mail, the Danish intelligence service has confirmed that a video of the decapitation — which appears to be committed with a kitchen knife while the victim was still alive — is genuine.
Men can be heard in the clip reportedly calling the women “enemies of God,” referring to their deaths as “Allah’s will,” and saying “this is for Syria.”
The Danish intelligence service issued a statement saying, “The video and preliminary investigation according to Moroccan authorities indicate that the killings may be related to the terrorist organization Islamic State. This is a case of an unusually bestial killing of two totally innocent young women.”
The lead suspect in the murders was arrested Monday, and another three were apprehended while trying to flee on a bus Thursday. They were discovered trying to smuggle large knives underneath their seats, which are believed to be the murder weapons.
Jespersen and Ueland were students at the University of Southeastern Norway, pursuing degrees in “outdoor life, culture and eco philosophy.” According to the institution, the women’s trip to Morocco was not part of their studies, the Daily Beast reported.
The school issued a statement saying, “What we know is that they were on a month-long, private holiday in Morocco. Our thoughts go to the families.”