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TERRORISM

Two alleged Islamic State members arrested in northern Spain

Suspects are thought to be key figures in ISIS recruitment and propaganda activities

A hooded ISIS fighter.
A hooded ISIS fighter.

Counter-terrorism police in the northern Spanish cities of Gijón and San Sebastián on Tuesday arrested two suspects described as being “fully integrated” into the so-called Islamic State jihadist militant group (ISIS).

The suspect arrested in Gijón is a Spanish citizen of Moroccan origin, while the man detained in San Sebastián is a resident of Spain, also with a Moroccan background, according to the Interior Ministry.

The suspects posted explicit videos showing ISIS members carrying out attacks and killings

The two men had joined ISIS voluntarily, making this decision public on social media and Internet forums, according to the ministry. Both were allegedly involved in the brainwashing and recruiting of new members for the jihadist group and had promoted the carrying out of terrorist acts in the name of ISIS.

The suspect detained in Gijón is said to have sworn allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on social media and to have asked all of his followers to do likewise. He reportedly based his operations in the city and employed sophisticated security methods including the use of encrypted virtual phone lines to avoid police detection when communicating with other ISIS members.

The man arrested in San Sebastián was allegedly in close contact with radical elements in Guipúzcoa in Spain’s Basque Country. His chief activities included the recruitment and indoctrination of recruits among vulnerable people.

Security forces have arrested 150 Islamic radicals since the terrorism threat level was raised to four in 2015

The content posted online by the two suspects included ISIS propaganda videos designed to appeal to a mass audience. But the two men also posted violent and explicit videos as part of the so-called Islamic State’s online presence.

The raids carried out on Tuesday come after terrorist attacks in Europe that have demonstrated the danger posed to national security by undercover jihadists. Spanish security forces have arrested 150 Islamic radicals since the country’s terrorism threat level was raised to four in 2015. Of those arrests, 120 have taken place within Spain, while 30 took place in other countries with the cooperation of Spanish security personnel.

Tuesday’s raids also come a month after Spanish counter-terrorism authorities issued an alert about “the increase in mentions of our country” in recent propaganda material produced by ISIS, including text documents, videos and graphs.

Potential targets mentioned in this increased chatter included crowded areas, police officers, Christians, Jews and homosexuals.

Spain is another significant center of Islamist activity on the continent: 45% of the jihadists arrested in Spain since 2013 had Spanish nationality.

In early 2015, the Popular Party and the Socialist Party put aside their differences to sign an anti-terrorist pact aimed at fighting jihadism in Spain. Under that law, anyone convicted of carrying out a terrorist attack or any other violent crime can receive a life sentence with a review for release after serving 35 years. That pact also calls for 20-year sentences for anyone convicted of supplying weapons to terrorists, or 10 years for those who fund terror networks.

Spaniards who join foreign radical groups can also receive up to five years in prison.

English version by George Mills.

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