Sick beheading photos sent to families
Warning: Distressing content
Uncensored images of the severed and partially severed heads of two Scandinavian tourists murdered in the Moroccan mountains have been plastered all over the Facebook page of one of their grieving mothers.
It is not clear if the images were taken by investigators or the killers but the horror development came after friends and family urged people not to watch a video showing the decapitation of one of the victims currently circulating online.
The mutilated bodies of university students Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark and 28-year-old Maren Ueland of Norway were found on Monday at an isolated campsite two hours' walk from the tourist village of Imlil near Mount Toubkal.
A graphic video purportedly showing Ms Jespersen's throat being slit, which was viewed this morning by news.com.au, is still being widely shared on numerous social media platforms despite pleas for the footage to be removed.
In the video, two male voices can be heard shouting at the women in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) as one of the killers is seen sawing at Ms Jespersen's neck with a large knife.
According to Darija-speaking journalists at the Morocco World News, one of the perpetrators declares: "This is a revenge for our brothers in Hajin" - referring to the small Syrian town which was an ISIS stronghold until it was liberated two weeks ago by Syrian Democratic Forces.
Please don't watch the #Morocco video. You know what's going to be on it, you know what you'll see. Someone's precious daughters in their final moments, horrifically robbed of their lives. Don't give the monsters the satisfaction. You can give these beautiful girls their dignity— Vanessa Bailey (@vbaileyactor) December 20, 2018
So heartbroken and terrible what happened in Morocco with those beautiful girls ; Rest in peace Maren Ueland and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen— Ornella ♡. (@hsftangel) December 20, 2018
Warning if you come across the video please do not watch it for the sake of your own mental & emotional health. pic.twitter.com/g5ePHZmvnf
Earlier, several major news outlets - including The Guardian, the BBC and AFP - reported the video had been verified by the Danish authorities.
But the Danish Security and Intelligence Service has since issued a statement denying the claim, saying its specialists were still working on the footage.
"The police and the intelligence agency are still analysing the video, so we cannot at this time say anything about the authenticity of the video," it said.
Friends of Ms Jespersen's family have been pleading with social media users not to watch the footage, which is still - incredibly - available on Twitter, Facebook, 4Chan and Reddit.
In a shocking development, the Facebook page of Ms Ueland's mother Irene has been spammed with hundreds horrible images of her daughter's slit throat and Ms Jespersen's severed head.
Some appear to have been posted by local Moroccans in a bizarre attempt to express condolences, with the distressing images captioned with calls for the killers to be put to death.
"I was so lucky to be your boyfriend"
The former boyfriend of Louisa Jespersen has written an eloquent and utterly heartbreaking tribute to the woman he dated for two years.
Glen Martin, who stayed close friends with Ms Jespersen even after they broke up several months ago, described her as a force of nature who refused to be "limited by fear of all the dangers of the world".
"Dear Amazing Lulu,
Funny, full of energy, bundle of joy, inclusive, caring and thoughtful. These were just a few of your many amazing qualities. You were also well known to be distracted, slow and clumsy. These qualities that made so many of us to scratch our head, but it was just these that made you unique and loved.
"You were so curious and everything fascinated you. No idea how many times we were hiking together where I turn around and you were disappeared, because so to find you far behind me because you had to look closer to a beautiful flower, view or something that the average person wouldn't notice even. You saw beauty in every smallest detail.
Mr Martin's tribute continued:
"Louisa, I was so lucky to be your boyfriend for two years until this summer. We went apart as best friends with tears in our eyes because we found out that we didn't love each other anymore. We both were very sorry, but agreed that it was the way it was.
"It breaks my heart that there is someone who would hurt you, you always saw the very best in people and you brought out the best in the people around you. You travelled around the world just as you would, you would not be limited by fear of all the dangers of the world. You did what you wanted and you were tough.
"You will live on in the heart of all the people you have met through the journey of your life. I carry you with me the rest of the way and take you up on the mountains and down the rivers you never had the opportunity to experience.
"You have a special place in my heart and it is reserved for you the rest of my hopefully long life. To make room for you in my heart, I also had to give you a part of mine. So a part of me died Monday morning, but it also means that part of me is with you wherever you are now. No matter how lonely you are, I'll be there with your side and you with mine. I wish you good luck in your journey further wherever it takes you.
I don't say goodbye, but at reunion my friend."
Second video allegedly shows suspects backing ISIS
A total of four men are now in custody over the grisly killing of the two hikers as Moroccan and Danish authorities probe a link to Islamic extremism.
Morocco's Central Bureau of Judicial Intelligence (BCIJ) today released the names of three of the suspects, all of whom hail from "marginal neighbourhoods" around Marrakech.
They were named as:
*Rachid Afatti, a 32-year-old small businessman from Al Kayed, a village in rural Harbil, 30km outside Marrakech;
*Ouziad Younes, a 27-year-old carpenter from the Marrakech suburb of Al Azzouzia;
*Ejjoud Abdessamad, 25, from the Zeroual district of Marrakech.
Police have not released details of the fourth man arrested yesterday after police seized a cache of knives found on a bus in Marrakech.
A video showing all four men pledging their allegiance to so-called ISIS leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has been authenticated by investigators and gives weight to suspicions Ms Jespersen and Ms Ueland were killed in an act of terrorism.
The footage, recorded a week before the murders, shows the men sitting in front of a black and white flag. One, brandishing a knife, declares the group's intention to carry out terrorist acts.
He condemns "destruction caused by the warplanes of the Crusader alliance" and appears to taunt Morocco's intelligence service, saying "where is your knowledge? For here we are …"
Confirming its authenticity, the Rabat prosecutor issued a statement saying: "The video showing the arrested individuals … pledging allegiance to Daesh was recorded last week before the execution of the criminal acts we are investigating."
The killings have sparked fears of a hit to Morocco's crucial tourist sector as the kingdom's relative security has always been a major selling point.
"What most of us had feared - that is to say a terrorist angle to the double crime in the region of Imlil, has been confirmed," said leading news website Medias 24.
"Shock, sadness and revulsion are perceptible in Morocco."
Traumatised by the murders, residents of Imlil are deeply fearful for their livelihoods, and have helped investigators in identifying suspects, a tourism sector source told AFP.
Morocco has been spared jihadist attacks since 2011, when a bomb attack on a cafe in Marrakesh's famed Jamaa El Fna Square killed 17 people, most of them European tourists.
An attack in the North African state's financial capital Casablanca killed 33 people in 2003.