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TERRORISM

Spain busts gang that helped ‘finance Al Qaeda militia’

Spanish police on Tuesday detained 10 nationals of Syrian origin accused of financing "Al Qaeda terrorist militia" in Syria, the interior ministry and a source close to the probe said.

Spain busts gang that helped 'finance Al Qaeda militia'
An image grab taken form a handout video released by Spanish Police shows a man being detained at an undisclosed location. Photo: Handout/Spanish Police/AFP
With Europol's collaboration, more than 350 agents took part in an operation in Madrid, further south in Toledo and the eastern province of Valencia.
   
Fourteen homes and other premises were searched by officers.
   
The source, who refused to be named, said the detainees were Spanish of Syrian origin.
   
“The organisation was led by a family clan that for years allegedly used a legal business structure to hide illicit operations with which they evaded tax authorities and laundered large amounts of money,” the ministry said in a statement.
   
“The detainees allegedly took away money from each legal operation, substituting the real amount of the operation in the receipt with another lower value amount,” it said.
   
A large part of the stash of cash amassed went to the opposition-held province of Idlib in Syria to “give support and financial backing to terrorist militia there.”
   
Relatives of the suspects are allegedly Al Qaeda members.
   
The money was sent via various methods including human couriers and the “hawala” system, an informal method of payment based on trust that is far more difficult to trace than bank transfers.
   
One of those detained had already been arrested in Syria in 2008 and sentenced for his participation in an attack and for belonging to jihadistgroup Fatah al-Islam.
   
The operation comes just weeks after a Syrian man was detained on suspicion of funnelling money to European jihadists linked to the Islamic State group so that they could return to Europe.

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TERRORISM

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.

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