Shortly before dawn on February 7, 2016, Spanish anti-terrorism teams made raids on the Spanish cities of Alicante and Valencia along with raids on the Spanish autonomous town of Ceuta in North Africa. Seven men were arrested and charged with providing support to terrorists in Iraq and Syria by sending weapons and explosive materials disguised as Humanitarian aid.
The seven men were part of a cell which provided logistical support to Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front in Syria. The logistical support included: shipping military supplies, money, electronic, and communications equipment along with firearms and precursor materials to build explosives.
Police investigations found that the head of the cell directed a network of firms, which enabled him to send the logistical material in sealed containers from Spanish ports to terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq without raising suspicions. It was also discovered that the head of the cell was in constant contact with an Islamic State member. They discussed the recruitment of women and sending them to Syria to marry Jihadi fighters.
The cell which Spanish police raided had bee under surveillance since 2014. Major terrorism crackdowns have been ongoing throughout Spain since the beginning of 2015, which has led to the arrest of 83 individuals believed to have been assisting the Islamic State.
Spain has become more involved in counterterrorism domestically and abroad in efforts to prevent terrorist attacks against Spain and its allies.
- January 24, 2015, Spanish authorities arrest four men planning to carry out Charlie Hebdo inspired attacks
- March 17, 2015, authorities arrest eight in plot by Islamic State targeting the Spanish royal family.
- April 9, 2015, ten men and one women are arrested in bombings of Synagogues and other buildings in the City of Catalonia.
- August 25, 2015, Spain assists Moroccan authorities in raids and arrests at hotspot for Islamic State recruitment.
Spain is a hub of smuggling operations for jihadists to reenter Europe from Syria. Spanish officials have also seen an increase in jihadists preaching to Muslims throughout Spain about retaking Al-Andalus, which is the Arabic name for parts of Spain, Portugal, and France under Muslim control from 711 up to 1492.
In the aftermath, of the Madrid train bombings Spain took strong efforts to improve its national security. Spain has made great strides in cracking down on terrorist cells including over 100 stings that have led to 568 arrests of jihadist in Spain. However, the threat of jihadists still remains and with Spain’s Islamic population set to rise 800% in the next thirteen years, a subsequent increase in the potential jihadist recruits is also likely, and it will put even more pressure on authorities and government to maintain the safety of the public.