Spain, Hungary arrest five with alleged IS links

Spain, Hungary arrest five with alleged IS links
Five people, including two women, were arrested in separate raids across Europe for their connections to the militant Islamic State group, authorities said on Friday.
3 min read
14 January, 2017

Five people with suspected links to Islamic State militants were arrested on Friday during separate incidents in Spain and Hungary, authorities said.

A Moroccan man with Dutch identity documents was detained by police in the northwestern city of Figueras after authorities suspected he belonged to IS and recently returned to Spain from Turkey, Spain's interior ministry said.

The authorities are investigating whether his return "was motivated by a desire to carry out some sort of action in Europe," the ministry said in a statement.

Several weapons were also seized in the raids.

The arrest was made in cooperation with Dutch authorities and the intelligence services of several unnamed countries, the ministry said.

"Investigators are currently trying to determine the degree of radicalisation of the detainee, his possible links in Europe, the activities he has been carrying out for Daesh and what his purpose was since his arrival in Spain," the statement said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

Meanwhile in Spain, police involved in a separate operation detained two Spanish men who were part of a group "that had reached a very high level of determination to carry out terrorist activities".

The group was "fully aligned with the strategy of the terrorist organisation Daesh," the ministry said in a separate statement.

Police seized a long gun and three knives during searches of six houses carried out as part of the operation in Ceuta, the tiny Spanish territory bordered by Morocco on one side and the Mediterranean Sea.

Also, two young women from France and Belgium were arrested by Hungarian authorities who suggested the two allegedly sought to join IS in Syria.

The Belgian, 18, and the French national, 19, were trying to cross into Serbia early on Friday, a police spokesperson told Hungarian news agency MTI.

The women, who were not named, were travelling on a bus from Vienna to Sofia from where they planned to reach Syria and join IS.

They were subject to warrants issued for previous "acts in connection with terrorism," Gyorgy Bakondi, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief security advisor, told public television, however no further details were released.

Spanish police have so far arrested 181 people accused of connections to militant groups since 2015 when Spain raised its terror alert level to four on a scale of five following deadly attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

It is the highest alert level since al-Qaeda-inspired bombers blew up four packed commuter trains and killed 191 people in Madrid on March 11, 2004.   

Spain has been mentioned on extremist websites as a possible attack target for historical reasons, given much of its territory was under Muslim rule from 711 to 1492.

Last week, Germany's Vice Chancellor called for a blanket closure of Salafi mosques, linking the ultra-conservative school of Islam to Islamic State's attack on Berlin's Christmas market.

Sigmar Gabriel called for a 'zero tolerance' attitude towards combating Islamist terrorism, adding that those who preach violence should forgo protections created under religious freedom laws.