Moroccan King Mohammed VI's number on list of potential Pegasus spyware targets: Report
The bombshell claims were based on a leaked document containing 50,000 numbers of people identified as potential targets for Pegasus between 2016 and June 2021.
Published: 21st July 2021 12:59 AM | Last Updated: 21st July 2021 12:59 AM | A+A A-
PARIS: Moroccan King Mohammed VI's phone is on a list of numbers of people identified as potential Pegasus spyware targets by Morocco's intelligence services, French radio reported on Tuesday.
Radio France made the claim two days after it and several other news outlets, including The Washington Post and The Guardian, reported that the Israeli software had been used by governments to spy on activists, journalists, lawyers and politicians around the world.
The bombshell claims were based on a leaked document containing 50,000 numbers of people identified as potential targets for Pegasus between 2016 and June 2021. The list was dominated by numbers from 10 countries -- Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Morocco on Monday denied the allegations, saying it had "never acquired computer software to infiltrate communication devices". On Tuesday, Radio France claimed the country's monarch was on the list as well as "a large number" of Moroccan royals.
It said they included the king's wife Lalla Salma Bennani, his cousin Prince Moulay Hicham Alaoui, nicknamed the "red prince" for his progressive views, a former son-in-law of the late King Hassan II, entrepreneur Fouad Filali, and Hassan II's former bodyguard, Mohamed Mediouri, who is the current king's stepfather.
"But what is most surprising, when you look closely at this list, is that the sovereign himself is among those whose numbers were selected as potential Pegasus targets," the report said.
Radio France said it and its partners in the Forbidden Stories media consortium had established "that one of the telephone numbers that figures on the listing of the Moroccan intelligence services is indeed that of Mohammed VI."
It added that "his entire entourage suffered the same fate", including the king's chamberlain, Sidi Mohammed Alaoui, his personal secretary and three members of the latter's family. It said that the list also included the number of the head of Morocco's royal gendarmerie as well as the king's former top bodyguard, Hassan Charrat.
It was not possible to immediately verify the claims. Pegasus is a highly invasive tool that can switch on a target's phone camera and microphone, as well as access data on the device, effectively turning a phone into a pocket spy. In some cases, it can be installed without the need to trick a user into initiating a download.
NSO has denied selling the software to authoritarian governments for the purposes of spying on dissenters, labelling the allegations "false."