Spanish and Moroccan authorities arrested seven suspected members of a terror network aimed at recruiting women to fight for ISIS, which is also referred to as Daesh and the Islamic State. Five of the arrests were made in Spain, including a minor and a 25-year-old Chilean woman who was caught in Barcelona.
The other arrests on Spanish soil took place in Ceuta and Melilla, the only two Spanish cities in mainland Africa.
La Tercera newspaper identified the Chilean woman as Francis Peña Orellana, from the Valparaiso region, and said she was ready to join the ranks of ISIS in the next few days.
Four of the seven people arrested Tuesday were women, who tend to be recruited to be used as suicide bombers or are married off to jihadi fighters.
According to El País, the women were recruited directly by other women, who are very active in social media — especially in the private forums of Whatsapp, the paper said.
This is the fourth anti-terrorism operation conducted in Melilla this year – in August two young women, one of them 14 years old, were intercepted when they trying to cross the border into Morocco with the intention of traveling to Syria or Iraq.
The Tuesday raid was ordered by Spain’s High Court.
“All the detainees are charged with being part of a network to find, recruit and send women to the Syrian-Iraqi front to serve the terrorist organization Daesh,” said the Interior Ministry in a release posted by El País.
European authorities have noticed a sharp increase in the recruitment of women from Europe for ISIS in the past year, with at least 100 coming just from France.
These new arrests highlight ISIS’ growing presence in North Africa and Europe and the group’s goal of establishing a caliphate that includes not only the Middle East but also North Africa, Spain and Portugal. In June, a map began circulating around social media showing the planned ISIS caliphate – stretching from the border of China to Spain, which it called “Al-Andaluz.”
“North Africa has been a base operation for these groups for a while,” Matthew Dunn, a former operative for the British Secret Service, MI6, told Fox News Latino in September. “There is a great deal of dissatisfaction in these Islamic countries and that is what these organizations like ISIS prey on.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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