News / Europe

Spain Arrests Eight Suspected of Links to al-Qaida

Ceuta, Spain
Ceuta, Spain
Selah Hennessy
Spanish police have arrested eight people they suspect of recruiting militants to fight in Syria. Security forces say the network their operation broke up Friday morning is linked to al-Qaida.

The police operation was launched in Ceuta, a Spanish territory in North Africa.

Interior Ministry Jorge Fernandez Diaz said it marks a "hard blow" against international terrorism.

Spanish authorities first began investigating the network in 2009. They say it is responsible for sending dozens of combatants to al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups operating in Syria.

They say the group engaged in “funding, indoctrination, and organizing and financing travel.”

A recent report published by King’s College London said between 140 and 600 European fighters have gone to fight in Syria since the conflict began. The report said Europeans make up about 10 percent of the foreign-fighters contingent there.

Shiraz Maher is from the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization, which has collated the data.

Maher says most of the fighters come from larger European countries, including Britain, France, and Germany.

“There have been a number of factors radicalizing people, beyond the obvious sense of the brutality of the conflict and the way the conflict has been catalogued so well on open-source platforms like YouTube. That has radicalized a lot of people who have been able to see the conflict for the first time," said Maher.

He says others are people who fought in the Libyan conflict and were prepared to return to the region to fight. He says Europeans have joined other conflicts in the past, including in Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Syria has attracted a much higher number. That’s in part, he says, because of relatively easy access to the country.  

“We have the free movement of people across Europe, especially with the EU you can just move right across the continent. You get to Turkey and then from Turkey to get into Syria is very easy. The borders with Lebanon and Syria are also very porous. So there are a number of easier routes into Syria than there have been in previous conflicts," he said.

Earlier this month, the European Union’s anti-terror chief said he wanted European nations to take more action to prevent their citizens from joining the Syrian conflict.

Gilles de Kerchove said member states should vet social media and keep better track of suspicious travel.

Maher says the situation poses a problem for European countries in the long term.

“What you are going to have is a number of people returning to Europe who are heavily radicalized, who have probably been brutalized by their experience in conflict and who will also be highly trained in not just how to fight but also how to put together explosives as well," he said.

The eight suspects arrested in Spain Friday have been charged with belonging to a terrorist organization. According to the Spanish media, all the detainees are Spanish citizens.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs