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Spain investigating 301 people over links to jihadist terrorism

Number of arrests has quadrupled compared with 2013, while open cases grew 60 percent

A meeting of the terrorist threat evaluation committee on Tuesday.

Spain’s High Court has 301 individuals under investigation for their alleged ties to jihadism.

The country’s central criminal tribunal is right now handling 160 cases relating to Islamist terrorism, said sources at the prosecutor’s office.

The judicial inquiries deal with every aspect of terrorist activity, including recruitment of combatants for Syria, glorification of terrorist activities, and criminal association.

The high number of arrests in Spain “has very possibly contributed to the prevention of terrorist actions in our country”

The number of cases illustrates the spread of the jihadist threat in Spain, which the same sources described it as “the most serious” danger to Spanish society at the moment. Spain is considered a hotbed of jihadist recruitment, with many new combatants coming out of the exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

In a revealing use of language, experts no longer talk about Islamist terrorism as “a threat” but as “the threat.”

Following the attacks in Paris by a group of at least eight armed jihadists, all Spanish agencies involved in the fight against terrorism have pooled their data in a bid to prevent new attacks, cut off recruitment, and shut down the channels used to radicalize sympathizers.

On Wednesday, the city of Seville will host a meeting of 120 counter-terrorism experts from 39 countries to share information about Islamist terrorism, given that combatants typically travel through several territories in order to reach Syria.

The number of judicial investigations into Islamist terrorism has been growing at a fast pace in recent years. In 2014 there were 104, twice as many as in 2013, according to data released by the High Court’s prosecutor office.

So far this year, 90 individuals have been arrested in connection with Islamist terrorism, nearly twice as many as in 2014 (46) and over four times as many as in 2013 (21).

Counter-terrorism experts said the large number of raids against jihadism in Spain “has very possibly contributed to the prevention of terrorist actions in our country.” At the same time, “it could have become another source of threat, as it demonstrates that Spain is a country that efficiently combats these groups.”

Spain has carried out more operations against ISIS than any other European country so far. The country remains on a level 4 alert out of a maximum of 5 for terrorism attacks.

English version by Susana Urra.

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