FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM

Spain warns about surge in jihadist recruitment of young women

Interior Minister in New York to try to improve attention given to terrorism victims

Amanda Mars
New York -
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz in New York.
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz in New York.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez (EFE)

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz warned on Wednesday about a surge in the number of young women who are being recruited in Spain to join the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS).

He also noted that Spain is where the first all-female recruitment network was detected and broken up, in July of this year.

On Monday night, a 22-year-old Spanish woman was arrested at Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas Airport on suspicion that she was planning to fly to Turkey to join ISIS.

Earlier, 80% of recruiting was detected in prison environments, but now it’s happening on social media”

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz

Spanish intelligence services have been detecting significant recruitment activity in Spain in recent years, especially in the northern African exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla. While men are recruited for combat, women are enlisted for logistical work, chiefly to cook and bear children.

The arrest came on the same day that Fernández Díaz arrived in New York to join Foreign Minister José Manuel García Margallo in chairing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which Spain is presiding during October.

“So far during the present term [the Popular Party won elections in November 2011], Spain has arrested 157 individuals and detected recent attempts to recruit large numbers of young women,” said the Spanish interior minister before visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center.

“Earlier, 80 percent of recruiting was detected in prison environments, but now it’s happening on social media,” he noted.

Spain, he added, is now seeking to promote “a counternarrative” that will contain the seductive message being put out by terrorist organizations.

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The minister traveled to New York with three victims of terrorism who are scheduled to speak at a Wednesday debate at the United Nations.

María del Mar Blanco, president of the Victims of Terrorism Foundation, is the sister of Popular Party councilor Miguel Angel Blanco, who was kidnapped and executed by Basque terrorist group ETA in July 1997. Jana Gallardo was wounded and lost her partner in the Islamist attacks against Madrid commuter trains on March 11, 2004, and Tomás Fraga was a victim of the Egypt attacks of 2005.

Fernández Díaz said he hoped to achieve “a turning point” in the kind of international attention given to victims of terrorism, and said that Spain was a world reference on this matter because of its legislation “that is especially good in its protection of victims” after suffering decades of terrorism.

During its one-month presidency of the Security Council, Spain will try to push forward an international declaration of victim protection that would extend the Spanish model of support to other countries.

María del Mar Blanco said that it was important to keep alive the stories of those who suffered. “The terrorists want people to forget and for victims to remain anonymous,” she said ahead of her speech at the Security Council.

English version by Susana Urra.

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