Morocco king possible target of Israeli spyware: Pegasus investigation

Morocco king possible target of Israeli spyware: Pegasus investigation
The Moroccan king is among global leaders who may have been the target of Israeli spyware, leaked documents suggest.
2 min read
21 July, 2021
King Mohammed V may have been targeted by the malware [Getty]

Morocco's King Mohammed VI and Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani are among a  list of 50,000 possible targets of Israeli-made spyware, a new investigation by human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, suggests.

The "Pegasus Project" investigation was launched by Amnesty International and French nonprofit Forbidden Stories, along with several media organisations.

Radio France claimed that "a large number" of Moroccan royals are reportedly on the list of targets.

This includes the king's wife Lalla Salma Bennani, his cousin Prince Moulay Hicham Alaoui, a former son-in-law of the late King Hassan II, businessman Fouad Filali and the king’s stepfather Mohamed Mediouri.

"But what is most surprising, when you look closely at this list, is that the sovereign himself is among those whose numbers were selected as potential Pegasus targets," the report said.

The report found that over 1,000 high profile people, including heads of state and politicians, were targeted by software developed by Israeli company NSO, reports said.

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Activists, journalists, and politicians around the world were also targeted, prompting fears of widespread privacy and rights abuses. Among the list were two women who were close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

None of the leaders named in the investigation offered their devices up for forensic testing, and investigators were not able to confirm whether they had been infected by the Pegasus spyware, which gives spies access to a device's camera, images and messages.

The Guardian and The Washington Post were also unable to confirm if NSO clients had tried to deliver the Pegasus spyware to the phones, and if attempts were successful.

NSO continues to deny the accusations and called the report "false".

"There is no link between the 50,000 numbers to NSO Group or Pegasus," an NSO spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, Morocco and Israel signed a joint cybersecurity cooperation agreement called the Israeli National Cyber Directorate, after the North African country controversially agreed to normalise relations with Israel in December 2020.

The Israeli Cyber Directorate said that the new cybersecurity cooperation agreement will allow for the establishment of cooperation in research, development and the sharing of information and knowledge.

The Pegasus Project has also revealed that Moroccan journalists are believed to have been targeted by the malware.