Spanish police made several raids across the country early yesterday and arrested 13 men accused of harboring jihadist terrorists, some of whom may have participated in the Madrid train bombings four years ago.
Police made the arrests in pre-dawn raids in four northeastern towns near Barcelona. Raids also occurred in Madrid and Algeciras in the south. At least 8 of the detainees are Moroccan. The identities of the rest were not immediately provided.
The arrests stemmed from a 2005 police operation during which Spain broke up a terror cell that allegedly recruited people to stage suicide attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq and other targets set by al-Qaida, the ministry said in a statement.
The 13 men arrested Thursday are suspected of giving shelter to Islamic extremists, including at least five suspects in the March 11, 2004, train bombings that killed 191 people in Madrid, and helping them to flee the country.
Of any country, Morocco presents Spain's biggest terrorist threat. According to the Jamestown Foundation's Kathryn Haahr in 2004, "[f]ourteen of the 18 people provisionally charged in connection with the March 11 attacks are Moroccans. Six out of the seven bombing suspects found dead in a Madrid flat in April in an apparent mass suicide after police surrounded them, also were Moroccan."
And as terrorism judge Baltasar Garzon told Spanish lawmakers in 2004 after the Madrid train bombing, militant jihadist groups in northern Morocco include members that speak perfect Spanish and can enter the country undetected.
A short ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar separates Morocco and Spain.