A Spanish mother was sentenced to prison Thursday for attempting to send her 16-year-old twin sons to Syria to join the Islamic State. The mother, her husband, and two sons were arrested in Barcelona trying to board the boys on a flight to Morocco.
A judge found the mother, who is not named in multiple reports, guilty of “collaborating with a terrorist organization” by helping her children join the war against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Authorities have not yet determined for how long the woman will be behind bars, though they have also brought her husband, initially released, back for further interrogation. The father of the boys has relinquished his passport and is under heavy surveillance. The two sons are expected to testify to a juvenile court in the near future.
Authorities reported that the sons had “already contacted members of networks [dedicated to] delivery to facilitate their trip through Turkey.” The boys were to initially fly to Morocco before catching a flight to Turkey and crossing the border into Syria.
Spanish newspaper El País notes that an older brother, identified as Yassin Atanji, had traveled to Syria to fight alongside the Moroccan jihadist group Harakat Sham al Islam (HSI) and was killed in battle. Founded in 2013, HSI’s closest native Sunni ally in Syria is the al-Nusra Front, which is allied with ISIS rival organization al-Qaeda. Authorities did not clarify why they believed the teenagers were hoping to join the Islamic State after their brother had fought for an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.
Reports note that the children were no longer attending Spanish public schools and, instead, had been sent to Morocco to study the Quran. A neighbor of the family told El País that the entire family’s outlook on Islam appeared to have changed dramatically after a group trip to Morocco, where it is believed they were radicalized, while the younger children were “immersed in a process of radicalization,” according to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.
Spanish authorities note that they have arrested 29 Spanish citizens believed to be preparing to travel to the Islamic State to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq. Among those were a ring of men found using the Internet and telephone applications such as WhatsApp to recruit Western wives for jihadis already deployed to Iraq and Syria. Many of these cases have arisen in Spanish territories on the African continent, particularly Melilla and Ceuta near Morocco. Two teen girls were detained in Melilla in August 2014 attempting to travel to Syria, while four men were arrested in January for conspiring to form a terror cell similar to that which attacked the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The Islamic State has released propaganda videos in Spanish vowing to conquer the land they call al-Andalus, the old Arabic name for formerly Muslim southern Spanish territories.