COUNTER-TERRORISM

Two imams arrested in Ibiza over suspected links to ISIS

The Moroccan nationals allegedly targeted children in a bid to recruit jihadists for the terrorist group

Civil Guard agents with a terror suspect in Lleida in July.
Civil Guard agents with a terror suspect in Lleida in July.ADRIÁN ROPERO / EFE

Two imams have been arrested in Ibiza on suspicion of supporting the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.

The men, both Moroccan nationals, were based at the island’s Masllid al Fath mosque, where they radicalized and recruited people to the jihadist cause with children among their prime targets, according to a statement from Spain’s Interior Ministry.

The arrests come after Spanish authorities issued an alert about “the increase in mentions of our country”

One of the men had already been arrested in 2010 for beating students with a cane during a class on Arabic culture at the mosque, the local daily Diario de Ibiza reports. The courts went on to ban the use of canes or other similar objects during such classes at the place of worship.

The two suspects have been detained for alleged glorification of terrorism and indoctrination of potential recruits. Investigators say the men had publicly and repeatedly expressed their support for ISIS on social media platforms.

One of the men had used his Facebook account to spread ISIS propaganda, including videos and links to radical publications, the Interior Ministry said.

The men, who live in the Ibiza municipality of Sant Antoni de Portmany, began to increase their online presence in 2012 during the series of revolts across the Middle East known as the Arab Spring, according to the ministry. That online activity coincided with a massive rise in the number of foreign combatants traveling to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of ISIS.

One of the suspects was arrested in 2010 for beating a 12-year-old with a cane during a class on Arabic culture

Their arrest brings up to 156 the number of suspected jihadists detained in Spain since 2015.

Investigators in an operation carried out by Spain’s Civil Guard under the direction of the High Court are now focusing on the analysis of data retrieved from electronic devices belonging to both men.

Spain’s Interior Ministry noted that the assistance of Moroccan secret services had been a “key” factor in the arrests, which come after two other operations targeting jihadists in early October.

Two earlier raids

In one of those operations, Spanish police working in partnership with Morocco’s security forces arrested four Moroccans, two in Spain and two in the North African country. All four were allegedly members of radical cells working in conjunction with each other under ISIS coordination.

In the other operation, two men were detained in northern Spain on suspicion of recruiting and indoctrinating new members for the jihadist group.

Those raids and Tuesday’s operation come after terrorist attacks in Europe that have demonstrated the danger posed to national security by undercover jihadist cells. Spanish security forces have arrested over 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.

The 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.

English version by George Mills.

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