7 new suspects in Morocco slain hikers case
RABAT - A Morocco prosecutor on Thursday brought seven new suspects including a Spanish-Swiss man before a Rabat anti-terror judge in connection with the murder of two Scandinavian women in the Atlas Mountains.
The prosecution asked that the suspects be investigated for "forming a gang to prepare and carry out terrorist acts, premeditated assistance to perpetrators of terrorist acts and training people to join a terrorist organisation", Rabat's attorney general said.
The prosecutor called on the judge to place the suspects in pre-trial detention.
Danish student Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland were found dead at an isolated hiking spot south of Marrakesh on December 17.
The two women were beheaded, authorities have said.
Fifteen people, including the four main suspects, were brought before the judge on Sunday over their alleged links to the double homicide, labelled a "terrorist" act by Rabat.
The Spanish-Swiss man in Thursday's group had been living in Morocco and was detained in Marrakesh over alleged links to some of the suspects.
He subscribed to "extremist ideology", according to Morocco's central office for judicial investigations.
The four main suspects were also arrested in Marrakesh and belonged to a cell inspired by Islamic State group ideology, Morocco's counter-terror chief Abdelhak Khiam said.
None of the four had contact with IS members in Syria or Iraq, he said.
The head of the suspected cell is 25-year-old street vendor Abdessamad Ejjoud, according to investigators.
He was identified in a video filmed a week before the double-murder, in which the four main suspects pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to authorities.
The killings have shaken Norway, Denmark and Morocco. Another video circulated on social networks allegedly showed the murder of one of the tourists.
Morocco, which relies heavily on tourism income, suffered a jihadist 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.