As we previously reported, in recent months Spanish authorities have heightened security measures due to increased activities by Islamist extremist supporters believed connected to al-Qaeda operations in neighboring North Africa and Pakistan (Previous Report) .
On September 20, 2007, Spanish police in coordination with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested two Pakistani nationals on charges of channeling approximately US $75,000 to Islamist militants for the purposes of promoting and financing terrorism. The suspects were arrested in Barcelona and Spain’s capital city, Madrid .
The recent arrest of Islamic extremists and terrorism supporters in Barcelona and Madrid indicate terrorists continue to use Spain as a base of operations.
As al-Qaeda leadership continues to encourage followers of North African decent to join the jihad, we believe Spain will continue to be targeted by Islamist extremists.
Additionally, despite recent successes in anti-terrorism raids, trials, and increasingly subsequent convictions, we believe Islamist extremists will continue to operate in the country in the near-term.
Joint Security Forces Arrest Two
On September 20, 2007, Spanish authorities, in coordination with the FBI, arrested two Pakistani nationals on suspicion of financing terrorism. Using the so-called “hawala” financial transfer system– a method involving the exchanging of monies via a handshake, a piece of paper, or based completely on trust– Anar Muhammad Shan and Preces Mehmood Sandhu were charged with sending money to radical Islamist extremist groups in Spain and abroad.
The suspects were detained in Barcelona and Madrid following a three-year joint anti-terror operation between Spanish National Police and the FBI.
The arrests coincided with the release of an al-Qaeda videotape urging North African Muslims to “cleanse” their land of Spaniards and French.
Additionally, al-Qaeda second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahiri, called on Islamist extremists supporters to restore “al-Andalus,” the Arabic name for sections of the Iberian Peninsula formerly under Muslim rule.
Terrorist Financing On the Rise
The arrest of Shan and Sandu follow a recent trend in the rise of terrorist financing in Spain.
As we previously reported on May 29, 2007, Spain’s high court convicted three Pakistani nationals of sending money to known al-Qaeda operators (Previous Report). The suspects were later sentenced to five and one half years in jail for terrorist collaboration.
Additionally, the court found the defendants guilty of sending 11,036 euros in two transfers in May 2004 to Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a suspect linked to the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (Terror Attack) (Terror Attack).
In the aftermath of the 2004 Madrid train bombings Spanish authorities continue their efforts to arrest suspected Islamist extremist terrorists and terrorism supporters (Terror Attack).
Throughout 2006 – 2007 Spanish authorities arrested upwards of 20 suspected Islamist extremists in mainland Spain and specifically the country’s North African enclaves in Catalonia.
However, despite a substantial crackdown on Islamist extremists and recent successes in anti-terrorism raids, trials, and subsequent convictions, we believe the recent trend of Islamist extremist supporters residing and operating in Spain will continue to challenge Spanish authorities in the near-term.
Additionally, as al-Qaeda leadership continues to call on North African Muslims to “cleanse” their land of Spaniards and French, we believe Islamist extremists will continue to operate in and target Spain.