IS-linked militants accused of brutally murdering Scandinavian hitchhikers at Morocco beauty spot appear in court

IS-linked militants accused of brutally murdering Scandinavian hitchhikers at Morocco beauty spot appear in court
The suspects in the murder case of two Scandinavian women appeared in court in Morocco on Sunday.
2 min read
30 December, 2018
The two women were murdered at a Moroccan beauty spot [Getty]

Fifteen suspects accused of being involved in the brutal murders of two Scandinavian women in Morocco's Atlas Mountains earlier this month appeared in court on Sunday, Rabat's attorney general has said.

Morocco's prosecution asked that the suspects be investigated for "setting up a gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts", "premeditated attacks on life" and "advocating for terrorism", the attorney general added.

Seven more suspects will be referred to the prosecution in the coming days.

It follows the horrific murder of Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland at an isolated hiking spot in the Atlas Mountains on 17 December.

They were both beheaded by murderers inspired by the Islamic State group, with a video allegedly showing the sickening murder of one of the women.

Moroccan authorities have arrested some 20 people in the murder case, labelled as a "terrorist" act by Rabat. 

Among those arrested was a Spanish-Swiss man living in Morocco and detained in Marrakech on Saturday over alleged links to some of the suspects.

He is accused of promoting an "extremist ideology", according to Morocco's central office for judicial investigations.

The four main suspects were arrested in Marrakesh and belonged to a cell inspired by Islamic State group ideology, Morocco's counter-terror chief Abdelhak Khiam told AFP.

None of the four had contact with IS members in Syria or Iraq, he said. 

The man accused of leading the Moroccan IS cell is 25-year-old street vendor Abdessamad Ejjoud, according to investigators.

He was identified in a video filmed a week, where the four main suspects pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to authorities.

The killings have shocked Norway, Denmark and Morocco, with Rabat relying heavily on tourism income.

Morocco suffered a fall in tourists following a militant attack in 2011, when a bomb blast at a cafe in Marrakesh's famed 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.

It is estimated that 1,669 Moroccans joined the Islamic State group, which controlled much of Syria and Iraq from 2014.