FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM

Eight held in Madrid for jihad recruitment

New combatants were sent to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

Lahcen Ikassrien (right) and Hamed Abderramán at their trial in the High Court. EFE

Eight people were arrested in Madrid on Monday in a raid against an international network that recruited jihadists for the terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has links to Al Qaeda.

The leader of the ring is the Moroccan national Lahcen Ikassrien, 47, who was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and released after three-and-a-half years in Guantánamo. In July 2005 the US handed him over to Spain, where he faced charges of cooperating with Al Qaeda. However, the High Court acquitted him on the grounds that no firm evidence existed of his ties to the terrorist group.

Ikassrien, who lives in Madrid, was part of a cell led by Abu Dah Dah, who was convicted for being one of the founders of Al Qaeda in Spain.

The detainees include an Argentinean national who converted to Islam, several Moroccans and a few Spanish nationals.

At least 50 Spanish militiamen are fighting in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s forces. In the last three years, Spanish authorities have arrested 48 alleged Islamists — all men ageD 17 to 40, many of them unemployed or working in precarious jobs.

This is the fourth raid against jihad recruitment drives in Spain in the last two years. Earlier operations took place in the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, in the north of Africa.

Police sources said the recent arrests are a preventive measure adding to heightened security this week with a view to the coronation of the new Spanish king, Felipe VI, on Thursday.