June 16, 2014
Spanish police broke up what they said was a jihadist recruitment network in Madrid, led by a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, that sent volunteers to fight in Syria and Iraq with al Qaeda-inspired rebels.
Police detained nine people who allegedly fought alongside the Sunni militia Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, officials said. A person familiar with the probe said the suspected leader of the network is Lahcen Ikassrien, Moroccan by birth and nationalized Spanish. He spent four years at Guantanamo after he was captured in 2001 in Afghanistan, where he allegedly fought with the Taliban. He has denied being a Taliban member.
In Spain, Mr. Ikassrien has been a prominent voice for the closure of the Guantanamo camp, giving numerous interviews with local media and taking part in human-rights events organized by Amnesty International, according to Fernando Reinares, an expert in terrorism at Spain’s Elcano Royal Institute, a think tank.
“This detention comes to show that the idea many had, that the jihadists in Syria and elsewhere are a new generation that has no connection with the previous 9/11 generation, is completely false,” Mr. Reinares said. “What we see in fact, is that many of that older generation are now in leading positions all over the jihadist movement.”
Several dozen Islamist operatives have been arrested in Spain over the past two years, many of whom were recruited online.