Jihadi suspects arrested in Barcelona over links to Brussels attack

Catalan police have arrested eight people including suspected members of a jihadi group linked to last year’s suicide bomb attacks in Brussels’ airport and subway.

Jihadi suspects arrested in Barcelona over links to Brussels attack
Archive photo of an arrest in 2015. Photo: AFP

Dawn raids took place at 12 properties in and around Barcelona on Tuesday, in an operation that began eight-months ago, said the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, in a statement.

Four of those arrested are suspected of being directly linked to the terrorist attacks carried out last year in Brussels at the city’s airport and on the metro system.

It is not clear if the four were directly involved in carrying out the Brussels attacks, the spokesman added.

Four others were also detained over alleged links to jihadist organizations as well as organized crime activity.

Police said the suspects were Moroccans residents in Catalonia and aged between 31 and 39.

Belgium has been on high alert since March 22 last year when suicide bombers attacked Zaventem airport and Maalbeek metro station, killing 32 people and leaving more than 320 wounded.

The attacks were led by an Islamic State cell that was also responsible for the carnage in Paris in November 2015.   

The men arrested in Catalonia “may have participated or cooperated in past actions” and may have travelled to Belgium, Catalonia's regional interior minister Jordi Jane told radio Rac1.

Some of the suspects are linked to organised crime groups and drug trafficking, he added.The latest arrests mean that more than 200 arrests for suspected jihadi activities have been made since Spain raised its national security alert to one step below maximum  following attacks in France and elsewhere in 2015.



Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona

A court in Spain on Monday remanded in custody three suspected members of Islamic State arrested last week in Barcelona, including an Algerian man who had fought for the Islamist group in Iraq.

Three suspected jihadists held in Barcelona
Archive photo of a suspected jihadist arrested near Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Spanish authorities began their investigation after becoming aware just before Christmas that the “potentially dangerous” Algerian man was in Spain, police said in a statement.   

The man, a “jihadist” who had fought for the Islamic State group in Iraq, was arrested at a building occupied by squatters in Barcelona's seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta, the statement added.

Police detained two other Algerian men as part of the operation, one suspected of giving him “logistical support” in Spain and another described by police as has “acolyte”.

The operation was carried out in cooperation with European Union law enforcement agency Europol and the FBI, as well as the intelligence services of Spain and Algeria, the statement said.

The three men appeared before a court on Monday where the presiding judge ordered they be remanded in custody on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organisation.

Their arrest comes as the trial of three men accused of helping the jihadists behind the August 2017 attacks in Barcelona and a nearby town that killed 16 people is wrapping up at a court near Madrid.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, one of which involved a van ramming people in the centre of Barcelona.   

While none of the three men on trial are charged with direct responsibility, they are in the dock for helping the attackers, who were all shot dead by police.