Women Students Murdered in Morocco by ISIS Followers

Demanding an end to violence against women and honoring 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland and 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen

Moroccans hold anti-terror vigil for slain Nordic hikers
By Amira El-Masaiti | AP
December 22

RABAT, Morocco — Moroccans gathered Saturday in front of the Norwegian and Danish embassies in Rabat in a candlelight vigil to honor two Scandinavian university students killed in a terrorist attack in the Atlas Mountains.

Hundreds of people brought flowers and shed tears Saturday in a show of opposition to violence and religious extremism. They were honoring 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland and 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, whose bodies were found Monday. Authorities say the hikers were killed by four men affiliated with the Islamic State group.

The killings shocked Moroccans as much as those in Denmark and Norway. “I am deeply touched by the kind reactions of the Moroccan people after the tragic event,” the Norwegian ambassador to Morocco, Merethe Nergaard, said in a statement Saturday.

The mourners included ordinary Moroccans joined by politicians, artists and activists. Some held banners saying “Sorry” and condemned the brutal killing, which is unusual in Morocco and revived fears of terrorism.

“Words cannot describe this barbaric crime,” said Khalil Bensalmi, in his fifties, who came to the vigil with his two daughters. “This doesn’t at all represent Moroccan society or its pacifist culture.”

The group first held a vigil in front of the Norwegian Embassy, read a letter in memory of the two women, then held a moment of silence. Many attendees cried. They then quietly departed to the Danish Embassy, where again tears were shed, and candles were lit in honor of the two women, university students passionate about the outdoors.

Ratiba Naji, a housewife, tried to hold back her emotions as she said, “It’s horrendous. These girls deserve life. Their parents must be devastated. I am sorry.”

A torch-lit parade was held in Ueland’s hometown in Norway on Friday.

The killings marked the first terrorist attack to hit Morocco since 2011, when a suicide bomber detonated in Marrakech and killed 16 people.

More than 1,000 Moroccans have joined IS in recent years, and Moroccan authorities arrested 20 cells with terrorist affiliations between 2017 and 2018.

The hikers’ killings triggered fear among Moroccans of a renewed terrorist threat.

Samira Laziri, a journalist for national radio, who came to the vigil to protest against terrorism, said, “We thought that we were safe, but sadly there are still terrorist cells in the country and unfortunately we still have a lot of youth who get influenced” by extremist forces.

Thirteen men have been detained in the investigation.


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Comment by ROSE on December 24, 2018 at 11:43am

Hundreds of people from the hometown of one of the Scandinavian students killed in Morocco earlier this week have held a torchlit procession to show solidarity with the victim's families.

Between 500 and 1000 people from Bryne in Norway, where Maren Ueland grew up, marched through the streets of the coastal town on Friday evening.

The 28-year-old's parents, friends and other family members participated in the march, alongside Reinert Kverneland, mayor of the municipality.

The event was organised by the council, the local business community and various groups including the district branch of the Red Cross, which opened the doors of its offices after the torch procession to give people the opportunity to comfort each other and speak to experts in psychological first aid.

It was emphasized that the event was not a memorial, but a way to show support and compassion to Ms. Ueland's friends and family.

'It's important to stand together and be important for people to show solidarity,' Thor Inge Sveinsvoll, manager of the Rogaland county Red Cross, told Norway's Aftenposten.

'It's important to stand together and show emotions, it's shock and grief you cannot understand.'

'We want to show that we care about each other, and that we are together for a kinder world,' said Odd Ivar Nese, one of the organizers.

A gathering has been planned outside the Norwegian Embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat tomorrow to condemn terrorism, honour the victims and support their families.

Thousands of people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

The bodies of Ms Ueland, 28, and Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, were found on December 17, after the two friends had pitched their tent at an isolated mountain site two hours' walk from the tourist village of Imlil in Morocco.

They had died from neck injuries consistent with ISIS-style beheading, and a video showing the gruesome act is being widely circulated by gloating ISIS fanatics on social media.

The footage shows a man using a large knife to sever the head of a woman, believed to be Louisa Jespersen, while shouting 'it's Allah's will'.

Ms Ueland and Ms Vesterager Jespersen, who were studying to be outdoor guides at a Norwegian university, were spotted with three men in Marrakesh before heading to the Atlas mountains to hike.

They had been travelling around the country as part of a month-long trekking holiday.

Thirteen people have so far been arrested across Morocco as the hunt intensifies to uproot the Isis cell responsible for the beheadings.


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