Two Islamists have been arrested in Spain on charges of torturing and murdering two fellow Muslims for “abandoning radical Islam.”
The arrests came just days after Spanish newspapers reported that jihadists in Spain are travelling to Syria to help overthrow the government there.
Spanish authorities say the incidents, on top of many others in recent months, point to the accelerating spread in the country of radical Salafi Islam, which Spain’s National Intelligence Center, the CNI, in a leaked secret report — corroborated by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies, an organization tied to the Spanish Ministry of Defense, in its own recently published a 43-page report entitled, “Islamist Movements in Spain” — states is increasingly posing the greatest threat to national security.
Rachid Mohamed Abdellah and Nabil Mohamed Chaib, both of whom are Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin, were jailed after being questioned by Judge Eloy Velasco at the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) in Madrid on June 28.
Police say the two men, aged 25 and 30 respectively, are members of an Islamist cell based in the city of Melilla, a Spanish exclave on the northern coast of Morocco. They are accused of torturing and murdering two other members of the cell who “adopted Western behavior and tried to disengage from radical Islam.” Spanish authorities say the murders were meted out according to Islamic Sharia law, which calls for the killing of “infidels.”
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said the suspects are “capable of carrying out especially brutal attacks,” and share “the same radical orthodoxy” of the Islamists who carried out the March 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 people were killed and 1,800 wounded.
At a news conference following the arrests, the Director General of Spanish Police, Ignacio Cosidó, said: “They were part of an extremely radical group, and had committed a double murder of two members of their own organization who had shown signs of wanting to leave. Their ideology is clearly jihadi and they believe in terrorism as a means to achieve their objectives. Therefore, they posed a threat of the highest order.”
Abdellah and Chaib were arrested in the Melilla neighborhood of Cañada de Hidum after an extended confrontation with police, who – pelted with rocks and bottles by local Muslims – were forced to call for reinforcements.
Spanish police further state that the cell was composed mainly of Spanish citizens of North African origin living in Melilla, and Moroccans living in Farkhana, Morocco. The suspects were engaged in recruiting and indoctrinating Muslim youths for training in jihadist camps or war zones in places such as Afghanistan. The cell was notable for its secrecy and for the adoption of strong internal security measures aimed at keeping its activities clandestine.
Members of the cell were forced to live a life of submission to the Takfiri branch of Islam, a violent offshoot of fundamentalist Saudi Salafism, that seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate [empire] in the Middle East and large parts of Europe. Among other beliefs, Takfiris consider violence to be a legitimate method to achieve their religious and political goals.
The arrests come just days after the Madrid-based newspaper El País reported that jihadists from Ceuta, another Spanish exclave in northern Morocco, have been travelling to Syria to help overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. The report states that one of the jihadists, a 33-year-old taxi driver, Rachid Wahbi, was killed just days after arriving in Syria.
Spanish police say the jihadists, many of whom are Spanish citizens, have been travelling from Ceuta to Málaga and then on to Madrid, from where they board flights to Istanbul. Once in Turkey, they make contact with jihadists who facilitate their entry into Syria.
Police believe the jihadists from Ceuta involve Takfiris who, in the Los Caracolas district of the city, attend a mosque considered the most radical of the 33 mosques in Ceuta because of its links to Salafism. Spanish police say the jihadists also meet regularly in homes in the Condesa neighborhood of Ceuta, where they watch videos on jihad.
Separately, nine Islamists accused of planning terrorist attacks aimed at “liberating” Spain for Islam were found not guilty by the National Court in Madrid in April 2012.