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TWO Moroccan men suspected of "recruiting young Muslims with the ultimate aim of forming an 'army of followers' invisible to police control," were arrested in Madrid and Roda de Ter, around 100 km north of Barcelona, on Saturday November 19.

The unnamed individuals were involved in disseminating “all kinds of radical propaganda and content aimed at instilling terror in western societies," according to the National Police.

They were allegedly active on the internet, using social networks to radicalise and recruit new devotees to their cause.

The Interior Ministry added that they “formed independent, but coordinated” cells, which were “potentially dangerous, directed and controlled by Daesh and in a state of pre-activation for the commission of terrorist attacks in Spain," and they are also accused of spreading “very radical, extremely crude” content, including videos of “violent acts.”

They had publicised an oath of loyalty to the terrorist organisation and were living in a “state of total isolation,” cutting of contact with the outside world in favour of an existence based in “the virtual realm, via their radical jihadi profiles.”

The arrests bring the total number of individuals apprehended by Spanish authorities since 2015, when the country raised the terror alert to Level 4, to 163.

FEARS over the break-up of the European Union has led country leaders to the conclusion that a ‘hard’ Brexit is their only option in order to maintain integration in the bloc.

The consensus is apparently shared by all 27 nations which will remain in the EU following Britain’s exit.

One top diplomat is quoted by the Observer as saying: “If you British are not prepared to compromise on free movement, the only way to deal with Brexit is hard Brexit. Otherwise we would be seen to be giving in to a country that is leaving. That would be fatal.”

The increasingly-hard stance comes as Nigel Farage announced that he intends to take advantage of his relationship with Donald Trump to make a new bid for a seat in the Commons, while predicting that right wing nationalist Marine Le Pen could win next spring’s French presidential election.

“She will clearly win through to the second round. And after what has happened elsewhere, only a fool would say she would have no chance of winning overall. France is a deeply, deeply unhappy country. If she were to win, it would be game over for the EU,” he said.

BENIDORM’S annual British Fancy Dress Day took place on Thursday, November 17, and once again saw hordes of expats and holidaymakers take to the streets donning an array of weird and wonderful garb.

The party, which takes place the day after the official end of the town’s fiesta, is estimated to have attracted some 40,000 revellers, up 10,000 on last year.

As always, events were centred on Calle Gerona and the British Square, with bars blasting out music to the delight of the colourful crowd.

Thought to be the biggest fancy dress party in Europe, the celebration dates back twenty years, when local bar Sinatra’s began offering a free drink to anyone turning up in costume.

A new addition for 2016 was a float parade with local bars and hotels taking part, and the mayor, Toni Perez, plus a selection of councillors also made an appearance.

With an incredible array of costumes on display and even a street foam party outside one bar, the friendly fancy dress day appears to be going from strength to strength, with no trouble reported by local police.

A YOUNG Spanish man has been arrested for allegedly attempting to extort his mother out of €600 by staging his own phony kidnapping.

Both the man and his mother are residents of the dormitory town of Parla, located about 20 kilometres south of Madrid. The mother was sent ransom demands via text message and was instructed to take €600 in cash to a secret location. She was told that if she did not comply with the demands, her son would be murdered.

Despite being warned not to go to the authorities, the terrified mother immediately reported the incident to the National Police, who quickly launched the emergency protocol for kidnappings.

Before long they managed to locate the young man, who was apparently strolling freely around the town and under no visible threat.

Upon being questioned, the man admitted that he had faked the kidnapping as he was strapped for cash and had debts that he needed to pay off.

Automocion Moll SL has opened a new showroom in Gandia.

Official dealers for Hyundai, Fiat, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Mazda, their 15,000m complex has been designed to be as eco-friendly as possible in keeping with the ethos of the company.

That means utilising such measures as recycling water so that 40% goes back into washing their vehicles.

Lighting and the building’s architecture combine to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible.

The company’s charitable commitment is strong with a portion of profits going back into the community.

You find their new showroom at Avda de Alicante 120, Gandia, or ring them on 962 965 266. More information is available on the website at www.comercialmoll.es

A NEW survey has confirmed that the Spanish are indeed stingy tippers, as anyone who has worked in the hospitality trade will attest.

Unlike the United States, where tips of 20 per cent are considered near-mandatory, or the UK, where many restaurants now include a service charge of 10-12 per cent on the bill, Spanish patrons choose how much to leave by themselves.

The survey of 1,700 Spanish eateries, conducted this August by the Spanish Hospitality Industry Federation and cash-and-carry behemoth Makro, shows that almost three-quarters of customers tip less than 5 per cent, with many electing to leave nothing at all.

Just three per cent of the miserly munchers left a tip comprising more than 10 per cent of the bill.

Around 23 per cent of customers left tips between 5 and 10 per cent, amounts that restaurant and bar owners consider “normal.”

Despite this profusion of parsimonious patrons, restaurateurs are not inclined to introduce fixed service charges, with only 4 per cent of those surveyed in favour.

Instead, they are seeking less complex administrative procedures in their dealings with government departments, improved institutional support, more favourable credit conditions and access to state-funded training.

Other than the poorly-developed tipping culture, another major complaint was the Spanish tendency to book a table then fail to show up, with such failures blamed for 90 per cent of restaurants’ economic losses.

“EU negotiations are a bit like playing poker,” mused British Consul General Lloyd Milen at a community meeting hosted by Calvia Council on Tuesday (July 26) to discuss the result of the Brexit referendum.

Mr Milen promised that the concerns of British people living in Spain would be addressed by the British Government.

He reassured listeners that it would be two years at least before Brexit actually happens, that the rights of British nationals living in Spain hadn’t changed and “would be maintained”.

He also emphasised the importance of obtaining information from official sources and not listening to gossip in the local bars and supermarkets.

The floor was opened to the public who expressed concerns over work permits and pensions, with one angry resident saying he felt “let down” by the result, was frustratingly not allowed to vote, and threatened to “tear up his British passport”.

Milen said that all concerns over Spanish National Health issues should be directed to his specialist team in the Consulate who deal with such matters.

It was a welcome and much needed input from the Consulate, particularly with the government tending to keep its cards very close to the chest, and the meeting ended on a lighter note with a comparison to TV sitcom “Dad’s Army” with one wit telling everyone to “keep calm and carry on!”

AN alleged fraudster accused of ripping off sports fans in a travel scam in Mojacar in 2012 has made headlines again, this time in the UK.

Stephen Ackerman, 48, of Loughton in Essex, lived in Mojacar for many years, running a number of sports-travel businesses from an office in the resort.

The Mojacar-based empire was abruptly shut down after charges of credit card fraud were brought upon the Essex entrepreneur.

According to reports in the UK press, Ackerman has been up to no good, this time in an alleged scam involving footballers and backroom staff at a Premier League football club.

Dozens of players at West Ham United reported their credit cards had been used fraudulently after purchasing luxury food and drink items from a man calling himself Mark Kingston (an alias allegedly used by Ackerman).

The court heard that the alleged conman set up a stall outside the club’s Chadwell Heath training ground in December 2014 after making contact with a club representative in a trendy Essex bar.

Players and staff were offered luxury hampers from prestigious brands such as Fortnum and Mason and Harrods, along with bottles of expensive Champagne including Laurent Perrier and Cristal.

The goods were scheduled to be delivered before Christmas but none materialised. The victims later found their credit cards had been used in unauthorised transactions, totalling more than £63,000 (€76,000).

Newly appointed England manager and former West Ham boss, Sam Allardyce, was allegedly ripped off to the sum of some £13,000 (€15,600).

Ackerman first came under the spotlight in 2012, after dozens of cricket fans who had booked tickets to Sri Lanka to follow the England team arrived at the airport to find their flight tickets were not valid.

This was the first in a long line of fraudulent activities connected to Ackerman and his main Mojacar-based business, Sports Travel Internacional, which would surface in the subsequent weeks and months.

A high-profile victim was Sir Ian Botham’s daughter Sarah who bought tickets from the firm for a charity cricket match in Spain.

The charity workers were told by airport check-in staff that their tickets had been cancelled as they were purchased using stolen credit cards.

Following a joint investigation between UK and Spanish police forces, Ackerman, along with members of his team in Mojacar were arrested and detained by Guardia Civil.

According to a statement by Ackerman, he knew nothing about the alleged credit card fraud and instead blamed a former member of staff he sacked weeks before the investigation came to a head. The group were later bailed and Ackerman returned to the UK.

The trial continues at Snaresbrook crown court, Ackerman denies 17 counts of fraud.

A CIRCUS which planned to perform in Rincon de la Victoria has had its license revoked by local authorities after they discovered they used animals in their shows.

The Circo Jamaica, which planned to perform for three weeks in Rincon, had described itself as a ‘musical circus’. However, when technicians inspected the circus, they discovered several different animals beyond the usual cats and dogs. The technicians discovered ponies, a puma, two ostriches, four goats and a camel.

Rincon de la Victoria passed a city ordinance last October, making the municipality a “Friend City of the Animals”, and forbidding circuses from using animals in their shows. According to the municipality’s Councillor for Activity of Public Roads and Trade, Pedro Fernandez Ibar (IU), the circus said that the animals were not going to be used in any of the shows in Rincon.

“We are committed to circuses that do not include these shows” Fernandez Ibar said.

Circuses using animals in their acts is not as uncommon in Spain as it is in other parts of Europe such as Portugal and Belgium, where the use of animals is completely banned. Rincon is the latest in a long list of towns in Spain that have taken action on the issue however, with Barcelona, Cordoba, and the provincial capital, Malaga, having banned the practice.

Axarquia has seen a string of animal cruelty stories recently, including a couple found to be keeping 39 cats and 13 dogs in squalor in their Velez-Malaga home. However, these towns’ policies show a turnaround in the perception of animal rights in Spain, which have long been a bone of contention amongst expats arriving from the UK.

Animal rescue shelters have taken root across the area, and with police appearing to be taking a stronger view of cruelty, expats may soon not have so much to worry about.

AS tensions across Europe remain high following the recent spate of terror attacks, the Spanish interim government made the decision to maintain the country’s terror alert at level 4 in the wake of the tragic events in Nice last week, with increasing evidence that the latter was planned for months in advance and that the perpetrator was not working alone.

In reality, nothing changes in this respect, since Spain has been sitting on level 4 since June 2015, following the string of horrifying events in France, Tunisia, Kuwait and Somalia last year, and it is just one step below the maximum level 5.

Should this be raised, armed forces would be deployed to perform ‘surveillance’ and ‘protection of critical infrastructure’ alongside ‘aerial reconnaissance of non-urban strategic objectives’ and ‘restriction and control of airspace.’

That said, given the massive upsurge in tourists heading to Mediterranean Spain this year, the government’s view is that it must remain vigilant, and it is difficult to argue with their stance as 2016 takes on a progressively dystopian feel.

In addition, the first signs of collaboration between Spanish and French security forces, alongside a clampdown on terror suspects with possible links to Daesh, may be emerging on the Costa Blanca, with reports of 30 officers in full combat gear entering a clothes shop in Moraira on Friday, July 22, shortly after a squad comprising officers from the Guardia Civil, Local Police, and French National Gendarmerie were spotted entering a coffee shop in Albir.

No further details regarding either incident are available at present but, as always, we will keep our readers up to date should anything significant emerge.

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