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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 transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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