Gruesome Beheading Footage Circulates After Two Female Backpackers Found Brutally Murdered During Hiking Trip

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Maren Ueland, both Scandinavian students, were found dead in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. The four suspects arrested may have ties to ISIS.

By Jill Sederstrom

Two Scandinavian women were found brutally murdered during a hiking trip through Morocco's Atlas Mountains and authorities are investigating it as a possible act of terrorism after a graphic video surfaced on social media appearing to show one of the victims being beheaded.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and Maren Ueland, 28, had been camping in the Atlas Mountains as part of a month-long trek through Morocco when they were killed. Jespersen was from Denmark and Ueland from Norway, but the pair had been attending college together.

Their bodies were discovered Monday by French hikers, who reported one of the women was found inside a tent while the other was found just outside it. One of the bodies had been beheaded while the other had a deep wound to the neck.

"It was horrible. They were broken," one of the hikers who discovered the bodies said, according to news.com.au. "We warned everyone we saw in Imlil not to go up there. I did not want more to see what we had seen. ... It was a big shock, we're thinking about it all day."

After arresting one suspect Tuesday, three more were detained Thursday in Marrakech. Moroccan authorities said the four men pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video that was circulating on Twitter.

In the video, a woman with blonde hair can be seen screaming while a man cuts her neck with a knife.

"This is for Syria, here are the heads of your gods,” a man in the video said in French, according to news.com.au.

Someone can also be heard saying "this is in revenge for our brothers in Hajin," the BBC reports. Hajin is in Syria and was an urban Islamic State stronghold before it was seized by U.S. forces earlier this week.

Denmark's PET intelligence agency said it is working to investigate the footage and "can't say anything at this point about the video's authenticity.” But it did say in a statement to the Associated Press that preliminary findings of the investigation "indicate, according to Moroccan authorities, that the killings may be related to the terrorist organization the Islamic State group."

The killings were "politically motivated and thus an act of terror," Denmark Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said, without identifying the potential motives. "There are still dark forces that want to fight our values" and "we must not give in."

In neighboring Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said terrorism "is not the only lead that is being investigated in Morocco," but the case "emphasizes the importance of combating violent extremism."

Just before the killings, a hotelier in Morocco reported that three men who appeared to be "homeless" were seen near the girl's campsite.

"Three homeless men came from Marrakech and pitched a tent right next to the girls' tent. The men were not from around here," the hotelier said, according to news.au.com.

Both women were attending the University of South-Eastern Norway and had been working on earning a bachelor's degree in outdoor life, culture and ecophilosophy.

"What we know is that they were on a monthlong, private holiday in Morocco. Our thoughts go to the families," the university wrote on its homepage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[Photo Credits: Facebook, Facebook]

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