On the same day that President Obama unveiled his plan to close the Guantánamo Bay prison facility, a former Guantánamo inmate who fought for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has reportedly been captured by police in a raid against an ISIS terrorist cell in Spain.
According to the Associated Press, the raid was a joint operation between Spanish and Moroccan police, arresting three people in the Spanish North African town of Ceuta, plus one in the Moroccan border town of Farkhana – which is adjacent to Melilla, the other North African enclave of Spain.
“One of those detained in Ceuta was the former Guantánamo detainee who was not named by Spanish authorities, but described as ‘a leader who was trained in handling weapons, explosives and in military tactics.’ After being captured in 2002 and held in Guantanamo, he was returned to Spain in 2004, said Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz,” writes the Associated Press.
The group seems like a formidable jihadi cell, given the skills of the former Gitmo prisoner and another suspect who was reportedly “inclined” to blow himself up in a suicide attack, just like his brother did in Syria three years ago.
Police charged the suspects with seeking guns and bomb materials for terrorist attacks against Spain, and attempting to recruit teenagers from Ceuta to join the Islamic State.
The AP notes that Spain has arrested about 100 Islamic terrorist suspects over the past year, and over 600 since the horrific Madrid train bombings of 2004.
This is not the first time Spanish police have arrested an ex-Guantánamo detainee who switched his allegiance from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State. In June 2014, Moroccan national and Afghanistan al-Qaeda veteran Lahcen Ikassrien was arrested in Madrid, eight years after he was released from Gitmo, extradited to Spain, and acquitted of terrorism charges. He claimed he was tortured while in American custody.
The Long War Journal reported in 2014 that leaked State Department cables revealed “Spanish courts excluded the most incriminating evidence against Ikassrien, including communications intercepted prior to his detention at Guantánamo.” Also, Spanish prosecutors’ case against Ikassrien was damaged by the dismissal of a case against another Guantanamo detainee, because his admissions of guilt during internment were ruled inadmissable.
After emerging victorious from a Spanish courtroom, Ikassrien allegedly became a top recruiter for ISIS, building a network of contacts with militants across the Middle East and Europe. If the Associated Press report on Tuesday’s arrests hold up, it would appear another former al-Qaeda militant followed a similar post-Guantanamo career path.