The suspect was on Spanish security services’ watchlist for several years.
Rabat – Spanish security services arrested on May 20 four alleged terrorists, including one Moroccan who had previously escaped an arrest operation led by Morocco’s General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), Spanish newspaper ABC reported.
The Moroccan suspect, believed to be jihadist cell’s leader, fled Morocco several years ago before settling in Spain where he recruited members who share his extremist ideology.
According to ABC, the cell’s leader used to live in Barcelona, in northeastern Spain, and was already on the Spanish security services’ watchlist.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Moroccan suspect moved to a different city to look for a job in agriculture and allegedly began to plan a terror attack.
“The suspect lately showed a clear intention to carry out attacks, which has led investigators to act immediately to avoid any danger,” ABC wrote.
The suspect also had regular contact with ISIS fighters and used an advanced system that destroys all traces of communication, the newspaper continued.
Search operations in the four suspects’ homes led to the seizure of a weapon. Meanwhile, the search for two more suspects involved in the same group continues.
The arrest operation was preventive, but the possibility that the group was planning an attack has not been ruled out, according to Spanish authorities quoted by ABC. “The cell leader is a dangerous man who has contacts … He also shows much sympathy for ISIS.”
In recent years, a large number of ISIS “lone wolves” have taken refuge in European countries, including Spain, aiming to destabilize the countries’ security.
On May 8, Spanish police announced the arrest of another Moroccan man in Barcelona for his alleged ties with ISIS.
The Spanish Civil Guard carried out the arrest operation in collaboration with Morocco’s DGST and the American FBI.
Investigations revealed that the suspect had sworn allegiance to ISIS “at least four years” ago.