Spanish police arrested eight people in pre-dawn raids in Madrid yesterday against a jihadist recruitment network led by a former Guantanamo Bay inmate.
Police have so far launched 12 raids in the Spanish capital, detaining eight people. The investigation remains open, Spain's interior ministry said. The Islamic cell found and sent recruits for the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) based in Syria and Iraq.
ISIL fighters made rapid military gains in Iraq last week, seizing the second-biggest city Mosul and coming within 80km of Baghdad's city limits. Online photos apparently show ISIL militants massacring captured Iraqi soldiers during the offensive.
"It should be highlighted that the leader of this cell lived in Spain after passing through the Guantanamo military base, having been arrested in Afghanistan in 2001," the ministry said.
Spain's government has said it fears battle-hardened Islamist fighters may return to Spain from Syria and other conflict zones under the influence of al-Qaeda-inspired groups, presenting a threat of attacks.
The latest operation by Spanish security forces is the third significant raid on jihadist recruitment cells announced in as many months. On May 30, security forces arrested six suspects in Melilla, one of two Spanish-governed cities along with Ceuta on the north African coast.
Spain accused the network of recruiting and sending out jihadists to join "terrorist organisations" based in Mali and Libya.
On March 14, Spanish and Moroccan forces arrested seven suspects as they broke up a cell suspected of sending volunteer fighters to Mali, Syria and Libya.
The authorities detained three people in Morocco and another four in Spain. One was caught in the southern city of Malaga and the others in Melilla.
Spain this year marked the 10th anniversary of the March 11, 2004 al-Qaeda-inspired bombing of four packed commuter trains in Madrid, which killed 191 people. Since then, more than 470 suspected Islamic extremists have been arrested in Spain.
In Berlin, prosecutors' spokesman Martin Steltner said police on Saturday arrested a 30-year-old Frenchman suspected of "supporting a terrorist organisation" by fighting in Syria for the group.
Steltner said the suspect was wounded in fighting. He has also allegedly appeared in ISIL propaganda videos. A court will decide on his extradition to France in the coming weeks.
European authorities have stepped up their cross-border co-operation since four people were killed in Belgium by a suspected French Islamic extremist returned from Syria.
Additional reportingby Associated Press