RABAT: At least 14 suspected members of a cell that recruited jihadi fighters for the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria were arrested Tuesday in a joint operation in Morocco and Spain, authorities said.
Morocco’s Interior Minister said that 13 people were arrested in raids in five cities across the country, including Nador and Hoceima on the Mediterranean coast close to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, as well as Fez and Casablanca. One of those detained had previously been arrested under the country’s anti-terror law.
The statement said the “terrorist” network was headquartered in the suburbs of Madrid and lauded the “excellent” cooperation with Spanish authorities.
A Spanish Interior Ministry statement said at least one arrest took place in the central Spanish town of San Martin de la Vega, just southeast of Madrid.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry said the network was aimed at recruiting fighters for the Islamic State to fight in Syria and Iraq and also to carry out operations in Morocco and spread terror in the country.
Moroccan and Spanish authorities have previously carried out joint operations focused on the two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, Melilla and Ceuta, and the surrounding Moroccan cities, usually aimed at recruiting fighters for the Islamic State group.
Morocco frequently announces the dismantling of Islamic State recruiting cells, often based in the northern city of Fez and connected to other northern cities.
Spanish police have arrested some 50 suspected jihadi militants and recruiters so far this year.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said last month that 126 people had left Spain to join the Islamic State group in recent years. Of these, he said 25 had been killed and 61 remained abroad. He said that of the 25 known to have returned, 15 were in prison and 10 were free, and there are arrest warrants outstanding for 15 others whose whereabouts are unknown.