On 28 October, Europol supported the CGI of the Spanish National Police (Comisaría General de Información de la Policía Nacional) in arresting three suspects linked to a terrorist cell actively recruiting and indoctrinating young people. The individuals, among which feature the alleged leaders of the cell, were arrested as a result of house searches carried out in San Sebastian and Pasaia in northern Spain. They are believed to have created the terrorist structure to carry out jihadist terrorism in support of the so-called Islamic State.
This terrorist cell was very active online, disseminating a large amount of jihadist propaganda with the purpose of recruiting and indoctrinating young people. The content included a variety of violent visuals displaying minors involved in Islamic State jihadist combats and promoting them as role models. The suspects used social media accounts to disseminate propaganda. They created multiple profiles on social media networks, which counted numerous followers. Two of the accounts created accumulated over 10,000 followers.
During planned meetings, the youngest members received physical training and mental conditioning to carry out jihadist terrorism. The terrorist cell enabled the regular practice of contact sports and provided handbooks on the use and handling of weapons such as knives and firearms.
Investigators identified the existence of a hierarchy within the organization structuring the relationship between its members. The suspects used various measures to conceal the criminal activities taking place online and in physical environments.
The arrests were a result of a two–year-long investigation and an exhaustive analysis of information gathered throughout multiple operations conducted in the Spanish province of Guipuzcoa.
Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) supported the investigation by providing long-term analytical and operational support. During the action day, ECTC experts enabled real-time information exchange and analysis.