The alleged leader of a jihadist cell accused of killing two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco has admitted that he has beheaded one of the women, saying that the murders were carried out in the name of ISIS.
Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24 and 28 year old Norwegianman Maren Ueland cut their throats while camping in the Atlas Mountains in December.
& # 39; I beheaded one of them … I regret it & # 39 ;, former street vendor Abdessamad Ejjoud, 25, told the court and accused co-suspect Younes Ouaziyad for killing the other walker.
& # 39; We loved ISIS and we prayed about it to God & # 39 ;, he said.
Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen (photo left), 24 and 28-year-old Noorman Maren Ueland (right) cut their throats while camping in the Atlas Mountains in December
Twenty-four defendants – faced with charges such as promoting terrorism, forming a terrorist cell and premeditated assassination – appeared in court in Sale, near Rabat, under heavy security.
Three are suspected of direct involvement in the murders. Ejjoud was imprisoned for trying to join IS in Syria.
In theory, the murderers could face the death penalty, but Morocco has de facto been freezing executions since 1993.
Abdessamad Ejjoud (photo) has admitted that he has beheaded one of the women
The main suspects all come from the Marrakech region, near the site of the murders that shocked the North African country.
Nature lovers Jespersen and Ueland shared an apartment and went to the Norwegian University of Bo, where they studied to be guides.
They had traveled to Morocco together for their Christmas vacation.
Their lives ended in the foothills of Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, about 50 miles from the city of Marrakech, a tourist magnet.
According to the indictment, the attackers traveled to the High Atlas Mountains on December 12 on a mission to kill tourists.
Several potential targets were exceeded because the foreigners were accompanied by guides or local residents.
It took four days for the killers to select their targets, according to the Prosecution. It was said that two had committed the murders while the third filmed them on a telephone.
After the bodies were discovered, the Moroccan authorities were initially reluctant, referring to a & # 39; criminal act & # 39; and wounds on the victims' necks.
But that changed when the video showed up with a victim being beheaded.
In it, one of the killers refers to & # 39; enemies of Allah & # 39; and says that the murders should avenge the murders of jihadists in Syria.
Ejjoud has blamed fellow suspect Younes Ouaziyad (photo on the right) for killing the other walker. Rachid Afatti (left) is also a suspect in the killing
A separate video published in the first aftermath of the killings showed the alleged killers loyal to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The only foreigner among the suspects is Spanish-Swiss 25-year-old Kevin Zoller Guervos, who moved to Morocco after his conversion to Islam.
The others come from modest backgrounds, scrape past odd jobs and live in neglected areas of Marrakech, the most important tourist city of the North African kingdom.
Researchers said the & # 39; cell & # 39; was inspired by the IS ideology, but the anti-terror commissioner of Morocco insisted that the accused had no contact with the jihadist group in conflict areas.
IS has never claimed responsibility for the murders.
At a previous hearing, the court accepted a request from the Jespersen family's lawyer for the government & # 39; moral responsibility & # 39; for the murders so that they could receive compensation.
The lawsuit opened on May 2 but was adjourned until May 16 and then interrupted after a brief hearing.
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