A 25-year-old man from northern Argentina is among nine men being held in Madrid who are suspected of recruiting jihadists for terrorist groups.
César Raúl Rodríguez and eight others –seven Moroccan, one Bulgarian— were taken into custody after a raid against an international network that allegedly recruited jihadists for the terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has links to Al Qaeda.
Rodriguez was born in 1989 in Santiago del Estero, some 650 miles north of Buenos Aires. He immigrated to Spain from Argentina 10 years ago with his family – a local newspaper reports—and his father reportedly made a living as a construction worker.
Most of the family members returned home to Santiago del Estero after five years in Madrid, but Rodríguez stayed behind and married a woman of Moroccan origin, with whom he has two daughters.
According to Diario Panorama, a Santiago del Estero-based newspaper, Rodriguez's family members contacted his wife in Madrid, who confirmed the arrest.
The Argentina Embassy in Madrid said they had no information on the arrest and referred all inquiries to the Spanish Consulate.
The Madrid-based network was allegedly managed by the Moroccan Lahacen Ikasrrien, 47, who had been arrested in 2001 in Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo, according to a report by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Ikasrrien was then transferred to another base, but he was tried and released for lack of evidence.
In July 2005 the U.S. handed him over to Spain, where he faced charges of cooperating with Al Qaeda. However, the High Court acquitted him on the grounds that no firm evidence existed of his ties to the terrorist group.
In Madrid, Ikasrrien was linked with the dangerous cell led by Abu Dah Dah, founder of Al Qaeda in Spain who is now imprisoned.
Spanish investigators said they found valuable data in a warehouse Ikasrrien had rented in Madrid. The network, they said, had already sent two fighters to the conflict zone in Iraq 10 days ago via Turkey.
They added that the alleged recruiters were preparing to send jihadists through a network whose international ramifications already extend to France, Belgium, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Syria.
One of the two men sent to Iraq during the past few days was the brother of Mohamed Al Falah, one of the alleged perpetrators of the Madrid attacks in March 11, 2004.
According to El Pais, at least 50 Spanish militiamen are currently fighting in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s forces. In the last three years, Spanish authorities have arrested 48 alleged Islamists.
This is the fourth raid against jihad recruitment drives in Spain in the last two years, El Pais said. Earlier operations took place in the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, in the north of Africa.
Police sources said the recent arrests are a preventive measure adding to heightened security this week with a view to the coronation of the new Spanish king, Felipe VI, on Thursday.
Those arrested in the Madrid raid on Monday were:
Lahcen Ikassrien, a Moroccan national, born in Al Hoceima (Morocco) in 1967.
Mohamed Khalouk Darouani, of Spanish nationality, born in Larache (Morocco) in 1981.
Abdeslam El Haddouti, a Moroccan national, born in Tetouan (Morocco) in 1979.
Nabil Benazzou Benhaddou, a Spanish national, born in Casablanca (Morocco) in 1972.
Cesar Raul Rodriguez of Argentina national born in Santiago del Estero (Argentina) in 1989.
Boukhalef Mohamed, a Moroccan national, born in Tetouan (Morocco) in 1984.
Oialae Chergui, a Moroccan national, born in Asilah (Morocco) in 1988.
Younes Zayyad, a Moroccan national, born in Marrakech (Morocco) in 1984.
Deniz Ibryam Redzheb, Bulgarian-born Russian (Bulgaria) in 1979.