Spain ar­rests 11 sus­pected of links to IS

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Span­ish po­lice Wed­nes­day ar­rested 11 peo­ple sus­pected of links to the Is­lamic State group, in­clud­ing six Mus­lim con­verts, some of whom in­tended to launch at­tacks in the Cat­alo­nia re­gion, of­fi­cials said.

It was the lat­est of scores of such raids as Europe seeks to stop re­cruit­ment by the ex­trem­ist group, which has claimed the killings of many for­eign hostages.

Wed­nes­day’s ar­rests fol­lowed a year-long op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing hun­dreds of po­lice who made 13 raids around Barcelona and five other ar­eas of the north­east­ern Cat­alo­nia re­gion.

“We are deal­ing with a cell openly linked to Daesh,” an­other name for the group call­ing it­self Is­lamic State, said Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional Home Min­is­ter Ra­mon Es­padaler.

“It re­cruited young peo­ple and rad­i­cal­ized them. It sent some of them to Syria and Iraq and had also set up an op­er­a­tional cell which was will­ing to launch at­tacks in Cat­alo­nia.”

He added how­ever that “at no time did the ex­is­tence of this cell pose a dan­ger be­cause it was un­der sur­veil­lance at all times.”

Po­lice ar­rested 10 men and a woman aged be­tween 17 and 45. Five of them were Moroc­cans, five Span­ish and one Paraguayan — the lat­ter six con­verts to Is­lam — Es­padaler said.

They face charges in­clud­ing be­long­ing to a ter­ror­ist group, re­cruit­ment and in­doc­tri­na­tion, and in­cite­ment to ter­ror­ism.

Salafist Mosques

Spain has raided a num­ber of al­leged re­cruit­ment cells, most of them in its North African ter­rito- ries of Ceuta and Melilla as well as in Cat­alo­nia.

On April 1, a Moroc­can living in Cat­alo­nia was re­manded in cus­tody af­ter al­legedly seek­ing to send her 16-year-old twins to fight with ji­hadists in Syria, a year af­ter an­other of her sons died in that coun­try.

Spain’s Home Min­is­ter Jorge Fer­nan­dez Diaz said that of the 1,264 mosques in Spain, 98 are de­voted to the hard- line Salafist branch of Is­lam. Of those, 50 are in Cat­alo­nia, he told Catalunya Ra­dio.

Es­padaler said, how­ever, that “it would be out­ra­geous to say that mosques in Cat­alo­nia are preach­ing” ji­hadism.

“There are some places that pose a prob­lem and we are mon­i­tor­ing them.”

Scores of al­leged Is­lamists fac­ing ter­ror­ism charges are be­ing held in Spain, au­thor­i­ties say.

About 100 peo­ple from Spain are sus­pected of hav­ing joined ji­hadist fighters in Iraq and Syria, and fear they may re­turn to launch at­tacks.

Hun­dreds more such rad­i­cals from France, the United King­dom and Ger­many are also thought to have trav­eled to those coun­tries to fight.

“The ji­hadist phe­nom­e­non is a re­al­ity,” Es­padaler said.

“It ex­ists in our coun­try, in our neigh­bor­ing Euro­pean coun­tries and world­wide, but we also have po­lice ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing rad­i­cal­iza­tion and of fight­ing this phe­nom­e­non.”

The net­work bro­ken up on Wed­nes­day had sent four ji­hadists to con­flict zones but three of them were ar­rested in Bul­garia in De­cem­ber, Es­padaler said. An in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rant has been is­sued for the fourth.

AP

Mos­sos d’Esquadra re­gional po­lice of­fi­cers de­tain a man dur­ing a raid in one of the re­gion’s big­gest op­er­a­tions against ji­hadist ac­tiv­ity, in Sabadell, near Barcelona, Spain on Wed­nes­day, April 8.

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