A Swiss-Spanish dual national has been arrested in Morocco on suspicion of aiding terrorists who beheaded a Danish and Norwegian hiker in the Atlas mountains.
The Swiss foreign ministry said it was in contact with the authorities in Morocco, Spain, Denmark and Norway to help in the case and exchange information.
The Federal Police Office (Fedpol) said on Monday that the suspect had a criminal record for a number of offenses committed in Geneva between 2007 and 2013.
Convicted of several crimes, including drug use, robbery and domestic violence, the suspect emigrated to Morocco in 2015, according to a police spokeswoman.
According to a statement by Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation, the accused was “steeped in extremist ideology” and is “suspected of having taught some of the people involved communication tools stemming from new technologies and of having trained them to shoot”.
He was allegedly part of an operation to recruit people to commit terrorist acts in Morocco.
A 24-year-old Danish student and her friend, a 28-year-old Norwegian woman, were killed on the night of December 16 in southern Morocco, where they were on holiday. Their bodies were discovered in an isolated area in the High Atlas, in an area popular with hikers. Both victims were beheaded.
The Moroccan authorities have already arrested 18 people for their alleged links with this double homicide designated as a “terrorist incident”.
The four main alleged perpetrators, arrested in Marrakech in the days following the double murder, belonged to a cell inspired by the ideology of the Islamic State group but “without contact” with representatives in Syria or Iraq, Moroccan counter-terrorism chief Abdelhak Khiam was quoted as saying.
One of them, a 25-year-old street vendor, is suspected by investigators of being the head of this “terrorist cell”. He is seen speaking in a video shot a week before the murder, in which the four main suspects pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State.
So far Morocco has been spared Islamic State-related terror attacks. However, it is no stranger to terrorism with major attacks in Casablanca (33 deaths in 2003) and Marrakech (17 deaths in 2011).