Two men arrested on terrorism charges in Zaragoza and Murcia

Police believe Algerian and Moroccan had links to Al Qaeda

Police arrest Nou Mediouni in Zaragoza on Tuesday.
Police arrest Nou Mediouni in Zaragoza on Tuesday. Javier Cebollada / EFE

Spanish security forces have arrested two foreign nationals suspected of terrorist activities after a year-long surveillance operation. The two men, Nou Mediouni, 23, and Hassan El Jaaouani, 52, will be arraigned on Thursday, judicial sources said.

Mediouni, an Algerian, and El Jaaouani, of Moroccan origin, were detained in Zaragoza and Murcia, respectively. The police report on the arrests stated the men are "supposedly members of a radical cell linked to the terrorist organization AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb]."

Police said they believed Mediouni and El Jaaouani are not "frontline" terrorists and arrested them as a precautionary measure after their activity on the internet increased in recent days. As well as visiting websites with radical Islamist content, Mediouni had praised the actions of the Chechen brothers who planted two explosive devices at the Boston marathon last week.

Mediouni, whose parents have lived in Spain for many years, is currently unemployed but had previously worked at an internet café in Zaragoza, which permitted him to visit extremist websites using "very strict security measures." One of the sites he frequently visited was the AQIM platform for the recruitment of new members. The police report stated that Mediouni had been spotted via the forum because of his "high level of radicalization" and was invited to travel to "a jihadist training camp run by AQIM in northern Mali."

Unable to make contact with the camp because of "strong international political pressure in the area," Mediouni was forced to return to Spain. He later expressed his frustration on internet forums at "being unable to 'die like a martyr'."

El Jaaouani had also made contact with AQIM and a "recruiter in Spain," said the police. One of these contacts was involved in the 2011 kidnap and assassination of two French citizens in Nigeria.