TERRORISM

Anti-ETA death squad terrorist held for joining jihadist cause

Suspect had served 18 years for a 1984 murder, and was now allegedly planning Islamist attack

Agencies

Spanish authorities have arrested a man who already served 18 years for participating in state-sponsored death squads in the 1980s, on the suspicion that he was now preparing an Islamist attack in Spain. The arrest took place in the province of Segovia.

A file photo of a jihadist arrest by the Spanish Civil Guard.
A file photo of a jihadist arrest by the Spanish Civil Guard.Juan Barbosa

Daniel Fernández Aceña, 57, had previously been convicted for the 1984 murder of a French railway worker in the southern French town of Hendaye. That assassination was part of Spain’s dirty war against the Basque terrorist group ETA in the 1980s, carried out through an organization called GAL, which killed an estimated 23 ETA members.

According to the Interior Ministry, the Basque-born suspect is considered very dangerous and may have had access to firearms. He has been described by intelligence services as “a lone wolf” who chose to support the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) in recent times.

The suspect was “ready to carry out indiscriminate suicide attacks against transportation networks”

On social media, Fernández Aceña had recently manifested his “determination to commit a terrorist attack” in the name of ISIS. His Facebook contacts include many individuals professing the Muslim faith.

On Tuesday morning, investigators also questioned a resident of Valsaín, a hamlet of 170 people in Segovia province, over his relationship with the alleged self-made jihadist.

Several locals consulted by the Efe news agency said that Daniel Fernández Aceña often visited his property in Valsaín, where he and the man brought in for questioning were described as having a relationship.

The same sources said that this second suspect is “odd and anti-social” and that he has been arrested repeatedly in the past for drug possession.

The Spanish Civil Guard has also searched another home in La Granja (Segovia), where they were hoping to find clues as to potential attacks being planned by Fernández Aceña, and whether any third parties were helping him, either in Spain or elsewhere.

The detainee had indoctrinated himself “into religious extremism of a jihadist nature, doing propaganda work for DAESH [the acronym for ISIS favored by security forces] and entertaining the determination to perpetrate a terrorist attack.”

He had allegedly traveled to Afghanistan, Syria and Palestine, where he evidenced a desire to commit suicide attacks, given the chance.

Fernández Aceña was very active on social media, where he expressed support for jihadist organizations. He had become noticeably more radical since the summer, professing admiration for the terrorist actions perpetrated in Europe in recent months.

According to the Interior Ministry, the suspect had reached the point where he was “ready to carry out indiscriminate suicide attacks against transportation networks.”

In 1985, Daniel Fernández Aceña and an associate, Mariano Moraleda Muñoz, were convicted to 30 years for participating in the murder of the French national Jean-Pierre Leiva as part of the Antiterrorist Liberation Groups (GAL). But the alleged mastermind behind the killing, a businessman named Víctor Manuel Navascués Gil, was acquitted due to lack of evidence against him.

English version by Susana Urra.

More information