Network of 14 suspected jihadists arrested in Morocco and Spain

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Network of 14 suspected jihadists arrested in Morocco and Spain
Those arrested were suspected of recruiting jihadist fighters to sent to Iraq and Syria. Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Spain breaks up terrorist group recruiting for Islamic State as it warns that there are 800 jihadists poised to attack in Europe.


A joint police operation between Spain and Morocco dismantled a recruitment ring that targeted young men and sent them to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Simultaneous police raids in Madrid and cities across Morocco saw the arrest of fourteen members of the cell, according to details released by Spain’s interior ministry on Tuesday.

One man was arrested in the southeast Madrid suburb of Martin de La Vega, while others belonging to the same network were held in Fez, Casablanca, Nador, Al Hocei,a and Driouech, all cities in Morocco.

No details were given of the man arrested in Madrid except that he was under 30 years old and was married with two young children.

"Those arrested belong to a network whose principal activity was recruiting and sending foreign fighters to join the ranks of the Islamic State in the regions of Syria and Iraq," said the interior ministry in a statement.

"The joint counter-terrorist operation shows the excellent cooperation between Spanish and Moroccan security services in dealing with the jihadist terrorist threat," it continued.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters outside Congress:  "All nations are threatened. We have already said this is not a religious war but a war waged by barbarians against all who oppose their absolutely fanatical vision of Islam which has nothing to do with authentic Islam."

The arrests were the latest in a series of recent arrests made of people connected to the jihadist organization in Spain.

They came just a day after Spanish security experts warned that around 800 Islamist extremists who have returned from Syria or Iraq are preparing to launch attacks in Europe.

Spanish radio Cadena Ser quoted the security sources in a report on Monday.

On Friday a Moroccan who had lived in Spain was arrested following a foiled attack on a high-speed French train.

Ayoub El Khazzani, 25, originally from Tetouan in northern Morocco, arrived in Spain in 2007 and lived there for seven years, moving between Algeciras in the south and Madrid, before travelling to France.

He is suspected of having had contact with radical Islamists and had been put on a list marked as "potentially dangerous".

Europe has been grappling with growing jihadist cells and radicalised Muslims leaving to fight for the Islamic State or joining the rebels in Iraq and Syria.

France has the highest overall numbers joining the jihad, with the government reporting that 843 had left for Syria as of May - more than half of them unknown to authorities at the time of their departure.

Spain meanwhile reported in July that an estimated 125 people of either Spanish nationality or with residency in Spain have joined Islamic State forces in conflict zones.

At least 25 of them have known to have been killed over there while 25 have returned to Spain and 13 of those have been arrested and are currently in custody.

Since the start of 2015, 48 suspected jihadists have been arrested in Spain, said the interior ministry on Tuesday.




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