In search of a jihadist threat in Spain: 52 arrests and special attention for Africa

Security forces arrested 52 suspected jihadists in 25 operations in 2022most carried out by the National Police’s General Intelligence Commission, which remains on the lookout to “quickly defuse” a possible attack and closely monitors the spread of terrorism in Africa.

Those responsible for the fight against jihadism in this general police station take stock of EFE of a year 2022 in which his staff arrested 40 people. This figure is similar to the years before the pandemic, but far from the arrests made during the heyday of Daesh and the arrival of fighters in Syria or Iraq, such as in 2015 or 2017.

However, they claim that a higher or lower number of arrests cannot be equated with a higher or lower number of cells, or even an increase in radicalization. Most of the operations – 18 by the national police alone – result in few arrests and are the result of lengthy investigations.

They admit, however, that it is not so often for a single operation to result in a dozen arrests, as was the case for the largest operation of this year, which, after many months of investigation, led to the arrest of ten people in Melilla, one person in Granada and two others in the neighboring country in October, in collaboration with Morocco.

AFP/JOSE JORDANIA ​​​​– File image of a suspected jihadist arrested during a national police operation

Hard-to-de-radicalize prisoners and mujahideen minors

Police officials stress their importance for several reasons. On the one hand, many of those arrested were old acquaintances in this general police station, which reinforces the police’s view that de-radicalization in prisons is not something that works.

“But not in Spain, I don’t know of a de-radicalization plan that has really succeeded in a prison”says one of the police commanders.

Apart from the context, the dismantled network had the mission of indoctrinating mujahideen of 12 or 13 years old, some of whom were their own childrenwhich they instructed with jihadist songs that they disseminated through social networks but which they also internalized in parks and squares.

For the police, the internet continues to be a very useful vehicle for radical contentbut she claims that their open dissemination on social media has been more restricted since European police, under the aegis of Europol and the platforms, put a stop to any messages of radical glorification.

“Now it is not so easy for them to work in the virtual device. They have to resort more to deep internet or private forums”they explain to EFEwhile face-to-face radicalization has also not been left behind post-pandemic, as the October operation shows.

PHOTO/POLICÍA NACIONAL – National police arrested in Almeria Abdel Majed Abdel Bary, one of the most wanted “foreign fighters” of Daesh in Europe

The radical message of a mosque is very much in the minority

In fact, the imam of the white mosque of La Cañada de Melilla, the third “leg” of this important operation with recidivism and minors, played a leading role in the cell. The leader introduced ‘very radical’ messages into his sermons, which were later discussed in greater depth outside the mosque.

The commanders have no intention of pointing the finger at the imams as being responsible for the emergence of this radicalism among their followers. They specify that there are around 2,000 mosques and that the presence of radical imams who deliver these messages in their “khutba” (sermon) is “punctual” and “very minor”.

“Institutional Islam is the first to ensure that its religion does not harbor them”, they say, which explains why it is sometimes the faithful themselves who warn against these discourses, who have not always to be directly linked to jihadist postulates. They can run counter to democratic values ​​such as women’s or gay rights.

In any case, these speeches can endanger safety and can therefore be subject to administrative expulsion – without trial – as provided by the Aliens Act.

The headquarters of the Anti-Terrorist Police defends the guarantees of this procedure which, in recent months, has been carried out with Islamist radicals based in Catalonia and Talayuela. Deportations to their country of origin amounted to 17 this year, considerably less than the 28 that were carried out in 2019.

AFP PHOTO/AAMAQ NEWS AGENCY – Members of Daesh in Niger

The expansion of jihadists in the Sahel

For more than a year, counterterrorism experts have been warning of the spread of jihadism in the Sahel and Islamic Maghreb regionwhich is one of the biggest challenges for European security, especially for Spain, which is the only country to have land borders with Morocco.

They prefer not to reveal data, but they are concerned that this area of ​​great instability, with failed states and a lot of chaoscould be a pole of attraction for foreign fighters with the strengthening of jihadist ideology after the fall of the Islamic State in Syria, another country they are watching very closely to control the return of possible fighters whose it is not known whether they are alive or dead.

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In search of a jihadist threat in Spain: 52 arrests and special attention for Africa

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