A SUSPECTED terrorist cell with possible links to Islamic State (IS) has been broken up in a joint operation between Spanish and Moroccan security forces.
Raids were carried out in the Spanish city of Melilla on the North African coast, as well as in the Moroccan city of Nador, according to sources from Spain’s Interior Ministry.
During the early hours of Friday September 26 nine suspects – eight Moroccans and one Spaniard – were arrested, although it remains unclear if they were on the point of leaving for Iraq or Syria or not. The Spanish suspect is believed to have been head of the cell.
Investigations, which remain open, were brought into being by a collaborative effort between the Spanish National Police and Moroccan anti-terrorism operatives.
Morocco appears to be a hotspot for terrorist activity, and in particular the recruitment of new extremists who are then trained before being sent to Iraq or Syria to join the violent conflict being waged by IS.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 Moroccan nationals are currently thought to be fighting under IS’s wing, meaning that the Moroccan government’s collaboration with Spain is especially important.
The long-contended Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan coastline are particularly delicate areas, and could be potential gateways for terrorists travelling between Europe and the Middle East in both directions.
In the last few months, the authorities have dismantled three terrorist cells in Ceuta and Melilla, preventing dozens of Moroccan and European citizens from joining the conflicts taking place in Syria, Mali and Libya.