Spanish police arrested eleven people in a terror raid in Catalonia this week, including one Paraguayan minor believed to be preparing to attack Spain and working with jihadist groups, including the Islamic State.
The Wall Street Journal reports that most of the eleven were Spanish and Moroccan nationals–five each–and four in the Spanish group were converts to Islam. Catalonian police told the press that the group formed a “complete and structured” terrorist cell, and that the group “was prepared to attack.”
Infobae reports that the group was not only planning attacks on Spanish soil, but actively attempting to recruit young men to fight in Syria and Iraq on behalf of the Islamic State. The group, said regional law enforcement head Ramón Espadaler, “recruited young men and radicalized them, sending some of these to Syria and Iraq, and a will to attempt attacks in Catalonia has been established.”
Paraguay’s ABC Color adds more details: the Paraguayan government has confirmed that the 17-year-old was indeed their national, and it has been confirmed that the minor arrested is male. Authorities have stated they expect to be able to release at least the initials of the boy’s name soon, as the investigation develops.
Authorities also stated they believe the most recently arrested group of terrorist actors may have been operating in tandem with a different group arrested in December. That group specialized in recruiting young converts to Islam to join the Islamic State in the Middle East. Among those arrested was a teenage Brazilian national, who was arrested by Spanish authorities in Bulgaria on his way to Syria.
Spanish law enforcement arrested a separate group of four men in February in Melilla, a Spanish territory on the African continent. The men specialized in recruiting Muslim women to serve as brides for jihadists in the Islamic State, using social media to target and convert young women who appeared vulnerable to persuasion. A month earlier, Spanish authorities arrested another group of four men they believed to be planning an attack, and who fit the profiles of the attackers of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Both violent terrorist activity and recruiting are major challenges facing Spanish police.
The Islamic State has invested significant resources in converting Spanish Muslims and citizens generally to jihad. The group has released multiple propaganda videos vowing to “liberate” al-Andalus, the medieval Muslim name for southern Spain, and sympathizers of the terrorist group have hacked numerous governmental websites and replaced their content with jihadist propaganda.