A Spanish court has remanded in custody a man accused of leading an ISIS-linked terrorist cell located in Melilla, a Spanish exclave on the Moroccan coast. Eight other men, thought to be members of the cell, were also detained.
In his Madrid courtroom, High Court judge Javier Gomez Bermudez ruled that there was a “high probability” that the detainee Mohamed Said Mohamed, a Spanish national of Moroccan descent, was the head of the Melilla-based cell, The Local has reported.
Spain’s interior ministry said that Mohamed had been working alongside his brother, a former Spanish soldier and explosives specialist currently fighting with ISIS in the Middle East.
Two of the suspected cell members are thought to have travelled to the area under control by ISIS in July. During his ruling, Judge Bermudez said that there was evidence that the detained men were planning an “imminent” departure to join ISIS militants.
He added that Mohamed had made contradictory statements whilst being questioned. These included Mohamed’s denial that he knew the other men – an assertion which was refuted by witnesses who claim to have seen him together with the other detainees.
It is thought that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 Moroccan nationals fighting in Iraq and Syria at the moment, according to estimates by the Moroccan authorities. Spain has already arrested dozens of suspected jihadis this year.
Melilla is one of two autonomous Spanish cities located on the Moroccan coast. It has an area of 4.7 square miles and a population of 78,500. Ceuta is the other autonomous city, lying on the southern side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Its 7.1 square miles are home to just over 82,000 people. Both pose difficulties for the Spanish authorities trying to police militant Islamic activity on Spanish soil, sharing, as they do, land borders with Morocco.