Spanish authorities have started an offensive against jihadists suspected of enlisting militants to fight in Syria and other countries, the New York Times reports.
Officials said they were targeting Spanish and Moroccan online recruiters feeding conflicts in West Africa, Iraq, Libya, Mali and Syria. Police said a Monday operation in Madrid netted nine individuals alleged to have sought new members for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Earlier this month, authorities in the city of Melilla reportedly detained a group of Spanish citizens that included armed-forces personnel. The arrested individuals allegedly belonged to a group responsible for sending two dozen Moroccans and two Spanish citizens to join an Algerian-based al-Qaeda affiliate since 2012.
Spanish antiterrorism insiders said their government has eliminated more extremist groups in the last three years than any other European nation. Still, their crackdown reflected worries shared across Europe and the United States that foreign warzones may provide radicalized Westerners with combat experience they may apply upon returning home.
Spain suffered Europe’s most deadly strike by Islamic extremists to date, when militants killed 191 people through a string of train-bomb attacks in 2004.