Four suspects arrested over the killings of two Scandinavian university students in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains made a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, authorities in the country said on Thursday.
Morocco’s general prosecutor confirmed the authenticity of a video circulating on social media in which the four threatened to carry out attacks for Isil and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Investigations showed that the video was made last week before the killing of the two women, Danish and Norwegian tourists who were trekking in the Atlas Mountains.
The Danish intelligence agency had earlier said the women’s slayings "may be related" to the Islamic State group.
Three of the suspects were arrested on Thursday as they tried to flee Marrakech on a bus, Moroccan national security spokesman Boubker Sabik said. Another suspect was arrested on Tuesday. Authorities have said no one is being sought besides the four in custody.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen confirmed the identities of the victims, 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, of Denmark, and Norwegian citizen Maren Ueland, 28. The University of South-Eastern Norway said both women were students at its campus in Boe, southern Norway.
"What should have been a holiday trip turned into a nightmare" for the women, Mr Loekke Rasmussen told reporters in Denmark.
The women’s bodies were found on Monday in a remote region of the Atlas Mountains not far from a village that often is the starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak.
Moroccan media outlets reported that investigators have video surveillance footage showing three suspects putting up a tent near the victims’ tent and leaving the area after the slayings. Other tourists found the women with stab wounds in their necks and alerted police, according to national media in Morocco.
Mr Loekke Rasmussen described the killings as "an act of terror", saying: "There are still dark forces that want to fight our values" and "we must not give in."
The slayings have shocked Morocco, a popular tourist destination where attacks on foreigners are extremely rare. In the capital of Rabat, government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said Morocco condemned "this terrorist, criminal act."
"It is an unacceptable act that does not fit with the values and traditions of Moroccan people nor the traditions of the area where the crime happened," Mr Khalfi said on Thursday. "It is a denounced, condemned act."
A national security official who asked not to be named because he wasn’t authorised to speak to the media identified the three suspects arrested on Thursday to The Associated Press as Abdessamad Ejjoud, born in 1993; Younes Ouziad, born in 1991; and Rashid Aftati, born in 1986. They had knives and slingshots when they were arrested, the official said.
Morocco is generally considered safe for tourists but has battled with Islamic extremism for years. More than a thousand Moroccans are believed to have joined the Islamic State group.
An anti-terrorism rally is being planned for Saturday in Rabat.