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Morocco hikers: Three get death penalty for Scandinavian tourist murders

Image shows Rachid Afatti (L), Ouziad Younes (C), and Ejjoud Abdessamad (R), the three main suspects

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Rachid Afatti (L) and Younes Ouaziyad (C) killed the two women while Abdessamad Ejjoud videoed the murder

Three Islamic State group supporters who murdered two Scandinavian hikers in Morocco have been sentenced to death.

The verdicts for ringleader Abdessamad Ejjoud, Younes Ouaziyad and Rachid Afatti follow petitions on social media calling for their execution.

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, were found beheaded in the High Atlas mountains in December.

If the executions go ahead, they will be the first in Morocco since 1993.

That year saw the country introduce a freeze on capital punishment.

During the trial, it emerged that Ejjoud, 25, and Ouaziyad, 27, beheaded the two women while Afatti, 33, filmed the murders on his mobile phone.

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AFP / Facebook

Image caption

Maren Ueland, left, and Louisa Vesterager Jespersen were studying to be tour guides

“The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve,” Helle Petersen, Ms Jespersen’s mother, said in a letter that was read out in court last week.

What happened in court?

The verdict follows an 11-week trial in Salé near the capital Rabat.

Ejjoud, an underground imam, admitted killing one of the two women in May. “I beheaded one of them… I regret it,” the street vendor told the court.

French media report that Ejjoud served a prison sentence in Morocco for trying to join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and was released in 2015.

Afatti filmed the attack on his mobile phone. A video appearing to show one of the women being beheaded was shared online by IS supporters.

Police in Norway said that the video was almost certainly real.

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EPA

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The suspects arrived in court under heavy guard

The three men all said they were IS supporters, although IS has not said it was behind the killings.

In court, Ejjoud said: “We loved Islamic State and prayed to God for it.”

Read more about the Islamic State group:

Morocco’s anti-terror chief, quoted by the AFP news agency, said the group was inspired by IS but had no contact with IS militants in combat zones.

The prosecution labelled the three killers as “bloodthirsty monsters” after the autopsy report found 23 injuries on Ms Jespersen’s decapitated body and seven on that of Ms Ueland.

Who were the victims?

Ms Jespersen and Ms Ueland were flatmates at Norway’s Bo University.

Their bodies were found on 17 December in a tent in an isolated area near Mount Toubkal, Morocco’s highest peak and a popular destination for hikers.

Both had taken full precautions ahead of their trip, Ms Ueland’s mother said last year.

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

The victims’ bodies were found in an isolated area in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains

The women were on a Christmas camping trip and were studying to become tour guides.

The killers took four days to identify the women as targets, the prosecution said, and chose them because other potential victims were with guides, AFP said.

Morocco hikers: Three get death penalty for Scandinavian tourist murders

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