SPANISH National Police, with the support of EUROPOL, stopped an imminent terror attack on Wednesday after detaining five suspected terrorists in Barcelona and Madrid.
Police swooped on the homes of the suspects and recovered numerous machetes and several rounds of 9-millimeter-caliber ammunition. They also seized equipment used to forge official documents.
The operation, known as Operation ARBAC, originated in the arrest of three suspected jihadists in the city of Barcelona in January. Intelligence gathered in that operation led investigators to the alleged leader of the cell, who is thought to have entered Spain two months after the initial arrests.
Investigators were able to link these three suspects to a person in Algeria known as “Sheikh”, who was believed to be the leader of the group. This person was already known to authorities, and he had been arrested in Turkey in 2016 while trying to join Daesh.
Once he was released he is accused of working as a recruiter for the terror group in several countries, such as Algeria, Malaysia and Tanzania.
In March he was detected entering Spain, and was put under surveillance by security forces. He was subsequently located in Barcelona where he was working to radicalize groups of young people. The other suspected members of the cell are thought to have been living in Europe for years.
Four of the detainees have been remanded into custody, and a fifth is detained in the Aluche Internment Center for Foreigners (CIE) in Madrid.
Europol has confirmed that all the suspects are Algerian nationals, and are thought to have been poised to launch a terrorist atrocity in Spain.
In 2017 terrorists murdered 14 people and injured 120 along the famed ‘Las Ramblas’, as well as murdering a woman and injuring in the nearby coastal town of Cambrils.
Six perpetrators were later shot dead by police in a vineyard near Barcelona a few days later and two further members died when a bomb workshop exploded.
Spanish police moved in on the group after they had attempted to acquire an AK47 assault rifle.
The operation was carried out with the support of Europol, who sent two specialists to assist in the operation.
The latest arrests are both welcome and alarming, and in 2021 alone 29 people have been detained on terrorism charges across Spain. Most of these arrests have taken place inside prison, where radicalization often takes place.