Two Al-Qaeda-linked Moroccan jihadists were arrested in Spain and Austria by National police officers. The police carried out the anti-terrorist operation, which resulted in the arrest of two men considered to be FTFs (Foreign Terrorist Fighters). The two detainees had smuggled into Europe together via the “Balkan route.”
The first man was arrested in Austria, thanks to a European arrest warrant (EAW) issued by the Audiencia Nacional as part of an investigation carried out by the Comisaría General de Información. The second was arrested in Mataró (Barcelona), where he had arrived a few days ago.
The investigation began at the beginning of the year when the General Intelligence Bureau obtained information that two terrorists linked to Spain and of Moroccan nationality were planning to enter Europe. From that moment, the investigation began under the direction of the Central Instruction Court Number Six and the Public Ministry of the Audiencia Nacional.
One of the detainees had lived in Spain before heading to the war zone in 2014, while the other left the following year from Morocco. The latter had never lived in Spain, but most of his family members had been living in our country for seven years. Once in Syria, the two men under investigation joined al-Qaeda-linked groups and received military training to gain combat experience. After the loss of territory by jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, both managed to reach Turkey, where they have been living for a few months in the hope of being smuggled into Europe.
The two men under investigation managed to enter Europe two months ago via the Balkan route, which took them to Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Austria. In Austria, one of them was arrested on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by the Audiencia Nacional. The second continued his journey to Spain, where he took refuge in a house in Mataró. However, specialized counterterrorism officers arrested him, and after appearing in court on Friday, he was remanded in custody.
Both men participated in training courses during which they learned how to behave in combat and use long weapons. During their stay in Syria, they put into practice all the lessons learned in their training. In addition, the national police have videos of the two men in Syria, highlighting their terrorist activities.
This operation is part of the coordinated effort of the General Intelligence Office and the National Intelligence Center, in collaboration with other international services, to locate and neutralize the serious risk posed by the entry of “foreign combatants ” in Europe. As part of this joint security project, the national police have conducted several recent operations. For example, in December 2018, an FTF with no previous connection to Spain was arrested in the province of Barcelona who had also crossed Europe through the Balkan route.