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Morocco: suspects in tourists’ killing were ‘acting alone’ | ISIS/ISIL News

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Authorities in Morocco believe four suspects involved in the killing of two Scandinavian female tourists in the Atlas Mountains were acting on their own initiative, despite having recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, Daesh, also known as ISIS) group, an official said on Sunday.

Boubker Sabik, a spokesman for the Moroccan security and domestic intelligence services, also said the arrest of nine more people in various Moroccan cities over suspected links to the killers had foiled a “terror plot”.

The two tourists – Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway, were found dead early on Monday of last week with knife wounds to the neck near the village of Imlil, on a route to Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak and a popular hiking and trekking destination.

Sabik said on the state 2M TV channel that the four suspects, aged between 25 and 33 years, had headed to the Imlil area intent on committing a crime but without selecting their target in advance.

They had pledged allegiance to ISIL in a video made on Friday before the bodies were found, but without agreeing on this in advance with any foreign entity.

‘Love wolves’

The suspects acted alone according to Sabik, describing them as “lone wolves”.

“The crime was not coordinated with the Islamic State,” he said. “Lone wolves do not need permission from their leader,” he added, without explaining how the authorities had come to their conclusion.

Thomas Hegghammer, a senior fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, has described the killings as “amateurish”.

“Everything about this case seems improvised and opportunistic. I don’t think this is ordered from Daesh leadership. This looks more like an initiative from Daesh sympathisers in Morocco,” he told the Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.

Of the four suspects, one had previously served a two-year sentence in 2013 as part of a crackdown on individuals who planned on joining an ‘extremist’ group abroad, he said, adding that this suspect had radicalised the other three.

Sabik dismissed reports that one was of the suspects was a returning foreign fighter from the Middle East. He said that all four, who originated from the outskirts of Marrakech, had only informal jobs and a low level of education.

‘Terrorist plot’

Referring to the nine other suspects arrested on Friday, he said their arrests “spared Morocco a terrorist plot”.

Electronic devices, unauthorised hunting rifles, knives and materials that could be used for bomb-making were found in the course of those raids.

Sabik gave no details of this suspected plot but said Morocco is stepping up efforts to counter security threats posed by the return of ISIL fighters.

So far 242 out of 1,669 Moroccans who joined the ISIL group had been arrested, he said. Some fighters were using false passports and trying to hide among refugees heading for Europe as foreign fighters suffer setbacks in the Middle East.

Moroccan authorities were still trying to authenticate a video that has been shared on social media purporting to show the beheading of one of the victims. “The video has no background, and the clothes of the victim are not identical to those in reality,” he said.

However, the Danish intelligence service authenticated the video showing the murder of one of the victims. 

“The PET (intelligence service) confirms that a video circulating on the internet shows the murder of one of the two women killed in Morocco,” the authorities said in a statement on Thursday.

Compared with other countries in North Africa, Morocco has been largely insulated from attacks by armed groups. The most recent took place in April 2011, when 17 people were killed in the bombing of a restaurant in Marrakech.

Morocco has stepped up its effort to counter armed groups with the creation in 2015 of its own version of the FBI. The Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations has so far dismantled up to 57 cells of armed groups planning attacks in the country, including eight in 2018.

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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