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Morocco: 15 suspects face judge over Scandinavian hiker murders | News

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Fifteen people suspected of links to the murder of two Scandinavian women in the Atlas Mountains have appeared before a judge in Morocco.

The attorney general’s office in Rabat said in a statement on Sunday that the prosecution requested the investigation of the suspects for “setting up a gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts, premeditated attacks on life and advocating for terrorism”.

The statement said seven other detainees would be referred to the prosecution in the coming days.

It was unclear whether the suspects, who were brought to the Court of First Instance in Sale, near Rabat, in a convoy of four police vans amid tight security, included a Swiss-Spanish man arrested in Marrakech on Saturday.

The two students – Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, of Norway – were found beheaded on December 17 near the village of Imlil, on a route to Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak and a popular hiking and trekking destination.

‘Terrorist’ act

Moroccan authorities have arrested about 20 people over their alleged links to the double murder, labelled a “terrorist” act by Rabat.

Among those arrested was the Swiss-Spanish man living in Morocco who allegedly had links to some of the suspects, teaching them social media skills and archery. 

He subscribed to “extremist ideology”, according to Morocco’s central office for judicial investigations.





The killings have shaken Norway, Denmark and Morocco [Screenshot Reuters TV]

It said the man was also suspected of involvement in recruiting Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans for “terrorist schemes” targeted at “foreign interests and security forces”.

The four main suspects were arrested in Marrakesh and belonged to a cell inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group, Morocco’s counterterrorism chief Abdelhak Khiam told AFP news agency.

However, none of the four had contact with ISIL members in Syria or Iraq, he said.

Pledge of allegiance

The head of the suspected cell is 25-year-old street vendor Abdessamad Ejjoud, according to investigators.

He was identified in a video in which the four main suspects pledged allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to authorities.

The killings have shaken Norway, Denmark and Morocco. Another video circulated on social media networks allegedly showed the murder of one of the tourists.

Morocco, which relies heavily on tourism income, suffered an attack in 2011, when a bomb blast at a cafe in Marrakesh’s Jamaa El Fna Square killed 17 people, mostly European tourists.

An attack in the North African state’s financial capital Casablanca killed 33 people in 2003.

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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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