RABAT, Morocco (AP) — At least 14 suspected members of a cell that recruited jihadi fighters for the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria were arrested Tuesday in a joint operation in Morocco and Spain, authorities said.
Morocco's Interior Ministry said that 13 people were arrested in raids in several cities across the country, including Nador and Hoceima on the Mediterranean coast close to the Spanish enclave of Melilla, as well as Fez and Casablanca. One of those detained had previously been arrested under the country's anti-terror law.
A Spanish Interior Ministry statement said at least one arrest took place in the central Spanish town of San Martin de la Vega, just southeast of Madrid.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry said the network was aimed at recruiting fighters for the Islamic State to fight in Syria and Iraq and also to carry out operations in Morocco.
Moroccan and Spanish authorities have previously carried out joint operations focused on the two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, Melilla and Ceuta, and the surrounding Moroccan cities.
A heavily armed Moroccan, originally form the northern city of Tetouan, was subdued on a high- speed passenger train on Friday as it passed through Belgium, but there were no indications the raids were connected to that case.
Morocco frequently announces the dismantling of Islamic State recruiting cells, often based in the northern city of Fez and linked to other northern cities.
Morocco is one of the main suppliers of fighters to the Islamic State and in July, Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad said 1,350 Moroccans had joined the group, of which 286 had been killed.
He added that 30 networks have been dismantled in the past two years, 12 of those just in the past six months.
Spanish police have arrested some 50 suspected jihadi militants and recruiters so far this year.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said last month that 126 people had left Spain to join the Islamic State group in recent years. Of these, he said 25 had been killed and 61 remained abroad. He said that of the 25 known to have returned, 15 were in prison and 10 were free, and there are arrest warrants outstanding for 15 others whose whereabouts are unknown.
Giles contributed from Madrid.