The Spanish government raided the homes of two sets of brothers identified as Islamic State recruits, described by authorities as “highly radicalized” and plotting an attack that may have involved “self-immolation” in the West.
The BBC reports that the four were arrested in the Spanish territory of Ceuta, on the African continent and sharing a border with Morocco. The men are described as Spanish citizens of Moroccan descent and radical Islamists. The British network notes that authorities found “a pistol, combat uniforms, machetes, number plates, documents and computer equipment” in the four men’s residences. While specifics have not been divulged regarding the men’s attack plans, authorities noted that the men were prepared to “self-immolate” if need be in order to successfully carry out an attack.
RTVE, Spain’s national television network, identifies the men as Farid Mohammed Al Lal, Mohammed Al Lal, Anwar Alli Amzal, and Rodouan Amzal, all living within blocks of each other in a neighborhood within the region. The network also broadcast the transfer of the men into law enforcement custody on Saturday:
RTVE cites law enforcement experts as noting that the men had the “psychological as well as physical preparation and arms training” to execute a devastating terrorist attack.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo adds to the well of known information the jihadist’s partisan affiliation: the Islamic State. The men, the newspaper reports, were in contact with Islamic State head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “through an aggressive campaign of communication and media dissemination in jihadist forums and pages on the Internet.”
The newspaper notes also that the men will be processed in Madrid, the nation’s capital, and transported there via helicopter. Authorities told El Mundo that Spanish intelligence and law enforcement had already dismantled twelve terrorist cells within the past year, and that, while Spain is not operating on an elevated threat level, officials are proceeding with caution.
These arrests are the first in Spain in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, in which al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists killed most of the senior staff at the satirical newspaper. Police noted many similarities between the French jihadists with the Spanish suspects. Particularly worrisome to authorities, ABC reports: none of the men had traveled to wage jihad or receive training in Syria or Iraq, meaning that they had been radicalized at home. The Islamic State has specifically targeted Spain in the past, releasing a video in July vowing to “liberate” the Iberian peninsula from Christianity and impose strict Sharia law.