Spain arrests 16 North Africans accused of recruiting Islamic militants
The police on Monday arrested 16 men, most of them Moroccans, suspected of recruiting volunteers to fight in Iraq and other countries and spreading propaganda calling for Islamic jihad.
Most of the men were arrested in the northeastern region of Catalonia, which has a large concentration of immigrants from Morocco and elsewhere.
Thirteen of the arrests were made in predawn raids in Barcelona, the regional capital, and other Catalonian cities and towns. Two suspects were arrested in the town of Aranjuez, in central Spain south of Madrid, and one in the southern port of Málaga, the Interior Ministry said.
Two of the men were Algerian and the rest Moroccan.
The 16 men, who were arrested on the orders of Baltasar Garzón, a top investigative judge, are suspected of recruiting and sending volunteers to fight in Muslim militant groups based in North Africa and Iraq, and of disseminating propaganda calling for jihad, or holy war.
The Interior Ministry said the police had seized computer material, Islamist propaganda and cellphones, but no weapons or explosives, during the raids.
The Spanish police have arrested hundreds of suspected Islamic militants in the last few years, many in Catalonia and many in connection with the bombings of commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, 2004, which killed 191 people.
Terrorism experts are concerned that Spain’s fast-growing Moroccan population, which numbers more than half a million, is a recruitment pool for militant groups and that Spain has become a financing hub for such groups.
Spanish security officials say videos made by militant groups linked to or inspired by Al Qaeda indicate that Spain continues to be a target of Islamic extremists who cleave to a nostalgic claim over Al Andalus, as the country was called in Arabic when it was the site of a thriving Muslim civilization from the 8th to the 15th century.
Twenty-nine suspects are on trial in Madrid in connection with the train bombings. A Moroccan accused of being one of the bombers, who fled Spain, is believed to have died in a suicide attack in Iraq.
The Muslim rule of Spain
Terrorism and Immigration