Spain in the Eye of the Storm of Jihad
by Soeren Kern
June 6, 2015 at 5:00 am
The Islamists are especially interested in converts who have not yet taken on Muslim names and whose official IDs still have their Christian names, so they can purchase weapons without drawing the attention of police.
At least 50,000 Muslim converts are currently living in Spain. Police say that converts are especially susceptible to radicalization because they are facing increasing pressure from Islamists who are calling on them to carry out attacks to "demonstrate their commitment" to their new faith.
Spain has also become a key entry point for human trafficking mafias being used by jihadist veterans seeking to return to Europe after fighting in the Middle East.
"Turkey is the Seven-Eleven of false passports." — Spanish agent working on a human trafficking case.
Spanish security forces have arrested a total of 568 jihadists over the past ten years in 124 separate operations against Islamic terrorism, Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz revealed at an African security conference in Niger on May 14.
Fernández Díaz said that "constant police and judicial actions" have helped Spanish authorities prevent another large-scale terrorist attack similar to the March 2004 Madrid train bombings, in which nearly 200 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.
At the same time, Fernández Díaz has warned that it is "very probable" that Islamic terrorists will strike Spain at some point in the future; he has estimated the probability of an attack to be 70%.
At a two-day terrorism conference held in Madrid on April 23 and 24, Fernández Díaz said that at least 115 Spanish jihadists — including at least 15 women — are now known to have joined the Islamic State. He added that 14 jihadists had returned to Spain; nine of those are in prison and five remain free.
In January, Fernández Díaz said the number of Spanish jihadists abroad was 70, which implies a jump of more than 40 new jihadists in the first four months of 2015 alone. In August 2014, the first time that Fernández Díaz provided an official estimate, he said there were 51 Spanish jihadists fighting abroad.
Meanwhile, "dozens" of jihadists and other Islamic radicals are entering Spain from neighboring France, where they are said to be "asphyxiating" due to a government crackdown following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January. (On April 29, French President François Hollande announced that a force of 7,000 troops would be deployed to patrol French streets on a permanent basis.)
According to an anonymous Spanish intelligence operative interviewed by El Confidencial, a media outlet based in Madrid, French jihadists are moving to Spain because they feel they have "greater room for movement" on the Iberian Peninsula. They include individuals "suspected" of being Islamic radicals, but for whom there is insufficient proof for either government to arrest them.
The report says that most of the jihadists from France are moving to Catalonia and Spain's Mediterranean coast, where they are attempting to "blend in" with Muslim communities there. Also known as the Spanish Levant, the region roughly corresponds with what was once known as Xarq al-Ándalus, territories that were occupied by Muslim invaders for nearly five centuries.
Al-Andalus is the Arabic name given to those parts of Spain, Portugal and France occupied by Muslim conquerors (also known as the Moors) from 711 to 1492. Many Muslims believe that territories Muslims lost during the Christian Reconquista of Spain still belong to the realm of Islam. They claim that Islamic law gives them the right to return there and re-establish Muslim rule.
In July 2014, jihadists with the Islamic State produced a video in which they vowed to liberate al-Andalus from non-Muslims and make it part of their new Islamic Caliphate. The video showed a jihadist speaking in Spanish with a heavy North African accent, warning:
"I say to the entire world as a warning: We are living under the Islamic flag, the Islamic caliphate. We will die for it until we liberate those occupied lands, from Jakarta to Andalusia. And I declare: Spain is the land of our forefathers and we are going to take it back with the power of Allah."