Spain arrests four in swoop of suspected militant cell in north Africa


Police in Spain’s north African enclave of Ceuta arrested four men on Saturday suspected of belonging to a militant Islamist network that may have been planning an attack in Spain, the interior ministry said.

Spain has stepped up security as well as efforts to prevent the radicalisation of young Muslim citizens following attacks in Paris this month in which Islamist gunmen killed 17 people.
“The four men, of Spanish nationality and Moroccan origin, have a very similar profile to those who carried out the attacks in Paris,” the interior ministry said in a statement.

Video released by the police showed around a dozen heavily-armed officers shining searchlights into windows before storming two houses in the narrow streets of Ceuta before dawn on Saturday.

Police found a gun, combat uniforms, Spanish car licence plates and machetes when they made the arrests.
“They are two pairs of brothers, highly radicalised and highly trained,” Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters.

The brothers, as part of a network, carried out aggressive campaigns on Internet forums using Islamic State slogans to recruit people to fight in Syria and Iraq and carry out attacks in Western countries, the ministry said. Their activities are still under investigation.

Spain is among a number of European countries struggling to deter young Muslim citizens from becoming jihadists in Syria or Iraq, fearing they might return to plot attacks on home soil.

The Spanish cabinet has said it will put forward a plan to counter radicalisation among Muslim citizens at its weekly meeting next Friday.

Spanish and Moroccan police arrested seven people in December in a joint operation to prevent the recruitment of women to go to Syria and Iraq to support Islamic State insurgents there.

Last September, Spanish police arrested nine people suspected of belonging to a militant cell linked to Islamic State in Melilla, another Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Africa.