MADRID (Reuters) - Spain and Morocco arrested 14 people on Tuesday suspected of planning attacks and recruiting fighters to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Spanish government said.
All the arrests were made in Morocco apart from one man detained in the small town of San Martin de la Vega, near Madrid, where hooded anti-terrorist police brought the suspect out from his home with his head covered, according to Reuters television journalists at the scene.
Police then took the suspect to a nearby mobile phone business which was also searched, they said.
Those arrested were part of a group sending fighters to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Spain’s Interior Ministry said.
They were also planning attacks in Morocco and Spain, it said, without giving details.
“They wanted to replicate in Morocco and Spain the massacres carried out by Daesh members with the aim of creating a climate of psychosis and instability,” the ministry said in a statement, referring to the group by one of its Arabic names, Daesh.
The joint operation was launched after Spanish police spotted that one suspect, the leader of the group, had strong work and social links with Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters.
The operation was still under way, he said.
The arrests come days after a heavily armed 26-year-old Moroccan man who used to live in Spain was accused of attacking passengers on a train in France.
An interior ministry source said there was no link between the French attack and Tuesday’s arrests.
Spain and other countries in Europe and North Africa are having to tackle radicalized citizens joining militants in Syria and returning to launch attacks at home.
Before Tuesday’s operation, Spain had been involved in 67 arrests of suspected Islamist militants so far this year, 48 in Spain and 19 abroad, according to Interior Ministry figures.
Reporting By Sarah Morris, Inmaculada Sanz and Adrian Croft; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky