By Leah Cerilli
Seven people with ties to ISIS were arrested in a series of raids across Spain for supplying money and weapons to terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria on February 7, according to NBC News. Within the intercepted terrorist cell, five of those arrested were Spanish citizens, while two were foreigners of Syrian and Moroccan origin. All of the cell members had connections to ISIS and the al-Nusra front.
According to the Spanish interior ministry, the cell operated as a “business complex.” Military material, money, electronic and transmission equipment, firearms, and explosive-making precursors were sent to terrorists in Iraq and Syria under the guise of humanitarian supplies.
According to Russia Today, cell members are also being accused of money laundering for the terrorist groups.
The investigation of the cell first began in 2014, according to Time Magazine. The raids took place in multiple cities across Spain, with six of the men arrested in Valencia and Alicante along the eastern coast, and in Ceuta, where Spain borders Morocco. The seventh suspect was arrested later that day, but no location was released by the Spanish Interior Ministry.
The ringleader of the terror cell was also said to be recruiting women to be sent to Syria to become “jihadi brides to keep up morale for the IS fighters,” by order of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to the International Business Times.
According to Russia Today, the ringleader was often in contact with ISIS members, while all seven cell members were very active on social networking sites. According to NBC, members of the cell operated in several other European countries before permanently establishing themselves in various cities throughout Spain.
All seven men are in custody in Madrid, awaiting a court hearing where a judge is likely to rule to keep the suspects in custody. The investigation is still ongoing and is being coordinated by Spain’s National Court and state prosecutors, according to the IB Times.
According to Russia Today, 82 suspected jihadists have been arrested in Spain since the beginning of 2015. As reported by Newsweek, 11 people were arrested in April 2015 with ties to ISIS by Spanish police for allegedly planning terror attacks in the region of Catalonia. A month prior, members of a Spanish jihadi cell made threats against the Spanish royal family, prompting arrests of eight members located in Barcelona, Girona, Ciudad Real, and Avila. Multiple jihadist cells have been broken up in the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, both along the Moroccan border.
It was also revealed by Newsweek in February 2015 that a banking system called hawala is being used throughout Spain to finance ISIS fighters. A secret network running through shops in several of Spain’s most prominent cities sends sums of money to ISIS fighters. The system is trust-based, with brokers depending on their reputation to survive. This makes tracing money and making arrests difficult, since most of the work is anonymous and difficult to trace electronically.