Alleged ringleader admits murders of Scandinavian hikers in Morocco

The alleged leader of a group of jihadists admitted killing one of two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco, and accused his co-defendant of killing the other.

Alleged ringleader admits murders of Scandinavian hikers in Morocco
Members of the Moroccan security services stand guard during the trial of the three suspects on May 30th. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP

The alleged leader of a jihadist cell accused of killing two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco admitted to the murders in court on Thursday, saying they were carried out in the name of the Isis group.

Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland had their throats slit while camping in an isolated area of the High Atlas mountains in December.

“I beheaded one of them… I regret it,” former street vendor Abdessamad Ejjoud, 25, told the court, accusing co-defendant Younes Ouaziyad of killing the other hiker.

“We loved Isis and we prayed to God for it,” he said, wearing a long white tunic.

Twenty-four defendants – facing charges including promoting terrorism, forming a terrorist cell and premeditated murder – appeared in the court in Sale, near Rabat, under heavy security.

Three main suspects, including Ejjoud, are accused of direct involvement in the killings.


In theory, the killers could face the death penalty, but Morocco has had a de facto freeze on executions since 1993.

Nature lovers Jespersen and Ueland shared an apartment and went to Norway's Bo University, where they were studying to be guides.

They had travelled together to Morocco for their Christmas holidays.

Their lives were ended in the foothills of Toubkal, the highest summit in North Africa, some 80 kilometres from the tourist hub of Marrakesh.

Ejjoud – who had previously been jailed for trying to join Isis in Syria – confessed to organizing the mission to the High Atlas mountains on December 12th during which the tourists were killed.

'Holy war'

The prosecution has said several potential targets were passed over because the foreigners were accompanied by guides or local residents.

It was four days before the killers selected their targets, according to the prosecution. It said two of them carried out the killings while the third filmed them on a phone.

After the bodies were discovered, the Moroccan authorities were initially cautious, referring to a “criminal act” and wounds to the victims' necks.

But that changed when the video surfaced showing a victim being beheaded.

In it, one of the killers refers to “enemies of Allah” and says the murders are to avenge the killings of jihadists in Syria.

At the trial Ejjoud said he had “sent around” the footage to online groups of Isis supporters.

A separate video published in the initial aftermath of the murders showed the alleged killers pledging allegiance to Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The only foreigner among the defendants is Spanish-Swiss 25-year-old Kevin Zoller Guervos, who moved to Morocco after converting to Islam.

The others come from modest backgrounds, scraping by on odd jobs and living in neglected areas of Marrakesh, the North African kingdom's main tourist city.

Investigators said the “cell” was inspired by Isis ideology, but Morocco's anti-terror chief insisted the accused had no contact with the jihadist group in conflict zones.

Isis has never claimed responsibility for the murders.

Ejjoud said that after being prevented from going to Syria he “decided to carry out holy war” at home.

He said his group tried to make a bomb “but it did not work” and then plotted to “attack Christians as they are killing Muslims”.

At an earlier hearing, the court accepted a request by the Jespersen family's lawyer for the government to be held “morally responsible” for the killings so they could receive compensation.

The trial opened on May 2nd but was adjourned to May 16th and then paused again after a brief hearing.

The court on Thursday set the next hearing for June 13th.

Article by AFP's Hamza Mekouar

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Ex-jihadi housewife jailed in Norway for joining IS

A Norwegian court on Tuesday sentenced a woman who lived as a housewife in Syria to prison for being a member of the Islamic State group (IS), despite not actively fighting herself.

Ex-jihadi housewife jailed in Norway for joining IS
The Kurdish-run al-Hol camp which holds suspected relatives of Islamic State fighters.Photo: Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP

The Oslo court sentenced the Norwegian-Pakistani woman to three and a half years in prison for “participating in a terrorist organisation” by taking care of her household and enabling her three husbands to fight.

“By travelling to an area controlled by IS in Syria… by moving in and living with her husbands, taking care of the children and various tasks at home, the defendant enabled her three husbands to actively participate in IS fighting,” judge Ingmar Nilsen said as he read out the verdict.

Being a housewife to three successive husbands did not render her a passive bystander, the judge said.

“On the contrary, she was a supporter who enabled the jihad, looked after her three husbands at home and raised the new generation of IS recruits,” he said.

The young woman, who admitted having “radical ideas” at the time, left for Syria in early 2013 to join an Islamist fighter, Bastian Vasquez, who was fighting the regime.

Although she did not take up arms herself, she was accused of having allowed her husbands to go fight while taking care of her two children and household chores.

The trial was the first prosecution in Norway of someone who had returned after joining IS.

“This is a special case,” prosecutor Geir Evanger acknowledged during the trial.

“This is the first time that, to put it bluntly, someone has been charged for being a wife and mother.”

The prosecution had called for a four-year sentence, while the defence had called for her acquittal and immediately appealed Tuesday’s verdict.

The woman’s lawyer, Nils Christian Nordhus, argued that his client had quickly wanted to leave Syria after being subjected to domestic violence.

She had also been a victim of human trafficking because she had been held against her will, he added.

But the judge stressed that she had participated in the organisation “knowingly” and of her own will.

The woman was repatriated to Norway in early 2020 on humanitarian grounds with her two children, including a young boy described as seriously ill.

At least four other Norwegian women and their children are being held in Kurdish-controlled camps in Syria.