Arrests in Morocco backpacker beheadings foiled 'terrorist plot,' investigators reveal

A "terrorist plot" was foiled by the Friday arrests of nine more men connected to the ISIS-inspired beheadings of two Scandinavian backpackers in Morocco, investigators revealed Sunday.

The suspects were between the ages of 25 and 33 and were headed to the area where the women were beheaded with the intent to commit a crime, Boubker Sabik, a spokesman for the Moroccan security and domestic intelligence services, told Reuters.

Sabik said the suspects were found with a variety of items including electronic devices, knives, bomb-making materials and unauthorized rifles. He did not elaborate about the plot itself.

The arrests bring the total number of suspects in the case to 13. Four other men were arrested earlier in the murders of Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway, and Louisa Vesterager, 24, of Denmark.

Louisa Vesterager, left, and Maren Ueland, right, were found dead Monday with stab wounds on their neck near the village of Imlil.

Louisa Vesterager, left, and Maren Ueland, right, were found dead Monday with stab wounds on their neck near the village of Imlil. (REUTERS)

The women were found dead Monday with stab wounds on their neck near the village of Imlil, a starting point for treks to Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak.

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The remote village of Imlil nestled on the slopes of the Atlas mountains in Morocco on Dec. 20, 2018, about six miles from the spot where the bodies of two Scandinavian women were found.

The remote village of Imlil nestled on the slopes of the Atlas mountains in Morocco on Dec. 20, 2018, about six miles from the spot where the bodies of two Scandinavian women were found. (Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix via AP)

Sabik said while the suspects were seen in a video before the bodies were found pledging their allegiance to ISIS, the suspects were "lone wolves."

“The crime was not coordinated with Islamic State,” Sabik said. “Lone wolves do not need permission from their leader."

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Sabik added that authorities were continuing to investigate footage that allegedly showed one of the women being beheaded.

"The video has no background and the clothes of the victim are not identical to those in reality," Sabik said.

Norwegian police last week said the video likely was authentic.

Morocco is generally considered safe for tourists but has been rooting out Islamic extremists for years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.