15 charged with terror offences over deaths of tourists in Morocco

Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Maren Ueland were hiking in the Moroccan mountains. Credit: Facebook/Marenueland1/Instagram/louisavesterger

Moroccan prosecutors have filed preliminary terrorism charges against 15 people who are suspected of links to the killing of two Scandinavian women in the Atlas Mountains.

The bodies of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, of Denmark and 28-year-old Norwegian Maren Ueland were found in a remote area in the Atlas Mountains on December 17.

A forensic team in the area where the two bodies were found. Credit: AP

Morocco’s public prosecutor said in a statement the charges include forming a gang to prepare and commit terrorist acts and premeditated murder.

Three of the suspects face additional charges for allegedly urging the others to commit acts of terrorism.

Tributes to the pair in Morocco. Credit: AP

Authorities have described the slayings as an alleged attack by followers of the so-called Islamic State group.

The 15 suspects were referred on Sunday to an investigating judge who handles terror-related cases.

More suspects are expected to be charged in the coming days.

Moroccans hold a candlelight vigil outside the Norwegian embassy in Rabat Credit: Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP

The killings have shocked Morocco, a popular tourist destination where attacks on foreigners are extremely rare.

Authorities in Denmark and Norway on Wednesday warned their citizens against hiking without local guides in Morocco after the killings.

Danish police officials said they have sent an officer to Morocco to assist in the investigation.

Morocco is generally considered safe for tourists but has battled with Islamic extremism for years, and more than a thousand Moroccans are believed to have joined so-called Islamic State.