Madrid - Security forces have broken up a Spanish and
Moroccan network suspected of sending jihadist fighters to battle Syrian
President Bashar Assad's regime, arresting seven suspects, Madrid said on Friday.
Spain's government said it was the "most
important" cell it had detected sending jihadists to Syria and other
"The operation is still ongoing," Spain's
interior ministry said in a statement.
Security forces arrested four of the suspects in Spain,
including the head of the network, and another three in Morocco, the ministry
Of the suspects caught in Spain, one was snatched in
Malaga and the other three in Melilla, one of two Spanish-held cities on the
northern Morocco coast, it said.
Further details were not immediately available.
Spanish security forces fear battle-hardened Islamist
fighters may return from Syria to Spain while still under the influence of al-Qaeda-inspired
groups, presenting a grave threat.
Just three days before the latest arrests, Spain marked
the 10th anniversary of an al-Qaeda-inspired bombing of four packed commuter
trains in Madrid, which killed 191 people.
Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz warned on
the eve of the anniversary that Islamist extremists remained a threat.
Al-Qaeda's leaders and its affiliates, including the
north African group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and armed Islamists
fighting in Syria, refer frequently in their statements to "Al
Andalus" in reference to Spain, he said.
"Clearly Spain forms part of the strategic
objectives of global jihad. We are not the only ones but we are in their sights
obviously," Fernandez Diaz said.
Since the Madrid train bombings, 472 suspected Islamic extremists
have been arrested in Spain, he said.
About 1 800 Spanish police and counter-terrorist security
forces, in addition to the intelligence service, are now grappling with the
threat of a new attack, the minister said.
The Spanish counter-terrorist service's alert system is
at its second-highest level, signifying "a likely risk of attack", a
level that has not changed in recent years.