MADRID (AP) — Spanish authorities on Tuesday announced the breakup of a ring dedicated to recruiting young women to join the Islamic State extremist group, part of a push by European nations to stop citizens from traveling to Syria and Iraq, to reduce the risk of them returning home to carry out terror attacks.
Two suspected recruiters were arrested in the Spanish north African enclave of Melilla and two suspects accused of spreading IS propaganda online were detained in the northeastern cities of Barcelona and Girona, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The four were not identified but the ministry said the suspects arrested in Melilla "were dedicated to the recruitment of women who, after a process of indoctrination, would end up integrated into this terror group."
Beside overseeing a sophisticated online recruiting operation, the two held meetings in homes to show potential recruits IS videos. Some them had started preparations to move to the conflict zones where IS operates, the ministry said.
Authorities were investigating whether the two arrested in Barcelona and Girona had connections with the alleged Melilla recruiters.
One of those arrested had a Facebook page with more than 1,000 followers, with particularly high penetration in parts of Spain identified as high risk areas for radicalization, the ministry said.
Spain has arrested dozens of suspected jihadi militants and recruiters in recent years, especially in Melilla and Spain's other North African enclave, Ceuta. The two small cities are surrounded by Morocco and the Mediterranean.
Officials have said about 80 Spanish citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join groups there and about a dozen have returned. Some have been jailed after coming home. Many more have headed to the countries from other European nations such as France.