Spain authorities arrested four jihadist recruiters throughout the nation in an early morning raid on Tuesday. The suspects are believed to have been working to indoctrinate Muslims and encouraging them to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They preyed on young women, according to Spanish law enforcement.
Lebanon’s Daily Star reports that the four men arrested were believed to all be working on social media to recruit members to the Islamic State. Arrests occurred both in neighborhoods in Barcelona and in Mellila, a Spanish city on the African continent bordering Morocco.
“In line with the strategy of the ISIS terrorist group, they focused on the recruitment of women who, after a process of indoctrination, would end up joining the terrorist group in conflict zones,” said a statement from Spanish law enforcement.
Spanish newspaper ABC reports that the two men arrested in Melilla are believed to have run a social media platform dedicated to translating Islamic State propaganda into Spanish and directing jihadist material to a Spanish-language audience. ABC notes that the men “took advantage of their publicity success on the virtual platform to issue apologist statements on terrorist tactics, with a special emphasis on the act of martyrdom.” The newspaper adds that the investigation into the terrorist ring “remains open,” meaning further arrests related to the four arrested this week may be forthcoming.
One of the Muslim men, law enforcement noted, had amassed over 1,000 subscribers to his Facebook page from Spain as well as Belgium, France, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States, the Daily Star reported.
In addition to using social media platforms to spread Islamic State ideology, El Pais reports that the men staged private viewing parties of the latest releases from Al Hayat Media, the video arm of ISIS’s propaganda machine. Some of those that had attended viewing parties at the homes of the suspects, authorities noted, had been caught already planning their one-way departure to Islamic State controlled territories in the Middle East.
El Pais adds that one of the men arrested appeared not to be a part of a jihadist cell in the flesh, but rather possessed “the prototypical profile of a lone wolf actor.” The Muslim man, authorities note, had gone from simply watching jihadist propaganda online to translating and sharing the materials online with others sensitive to the jihadist cause, including those also arrested in the police action.
Spanish wire service EFE has published a video of the early morning raid:
The Daily Star adds that the immigrant family of one suspect described as “a 36-year-old Moroccan who has lived in Spain since he was 8,” denied the allegations categorically. “It’s a lie that he is a terrorist. It’s all lies. For him, Islam is peace,” said Hicham Belkadar, the man’s brother. “He published photos about Islam but it has nothing to do with terrorism. These people who cut heads don’t represent Islam, and my brother is not one of them.”
The Spanish government has reacted proactively to the threat of jihadists attacking their country, particularly in the aftermath of the release of Islamic State videos in which jihadists vow to “liberate” al-Andalus, the medieval Muslim name for southern Spain. Spanish police arrested four other men in January believed to be plotting jihadist attacks on Spanish soil, all living in the African Spanish territory of Ceuta.
Spain faces a unique problem with jihadist recruitment of women in the nation. Twenty percent of the Spanish nationals known to have left the country for Syria or Iraq are women, and the men arrested this week are suspected of targeting Spanish women with a higher intensity than men who may be inclined to join the Islamic State.