Nine jihadists with links to Islamic State detained in Spain and Morocco

The group was operating in areas known to be bases for sending terrorists to combat zones

Police carrying out searches in Melilla after the detention of a group of suspected jihadists.
Police carrying out searches in Melilla after the detention of a group of suspected jihadists.Antonio Ruiz

An alleged terrorist cell linked to the Islamic State group (ISIS) has been captured in a joint Spanish-Moroccan operation in Spain’s North African exclave of Melilla, and Nador in Morocco.

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According to anti-terrorist sources and the Interior Ministry, officers arrested nine people – one Spaniard and eight Moroccans – during the early hours of Friday morning.

It is not yet known whether they were destined for Iraq or Syria, or indeed if they had recently returned from those countries. The Spaniard is alleged to be in charge of the cell.

The operation was carried out in a known hotspot for recruiting jihadists, who are later sent to fight in conflict zones. Including this latest, 20 such operations have now been carried out in Spain since the current Popular Party government came into power at the end of 2011, resulting in the arrest of 60 suspected terrorists.

Twenty such operations have been carried out in Spain since 2011, resulting in the arrest of 60 suspected terrorists

Morocco and Spain are working particularly closely in the fight against jihadist terrorism, especially after the North African country confirmed that between 1,500 and 2,000 of its citizens were fighting alongside ISIS. Those who survive their combat experiences are brought back to teach others terrorism techniques. Border areas of Spain are particularly attractive to these groups given that they offer a possible route toward conflict zones.

In recent months the National Police and the Civil Guard have broken up three cells that recruited jihadists in Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other North African exclave. In March the police apprehended a major group based in Melilla that sent “dozens” of fighters – mostly French and Moroccan – to conflict zones in Syria, Mali and Libya, as the Interior Ministry confirmed at the time.

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