MADRID (AP) – Three Moroccans with suspected links to the Islamic State group were arrested on Tuesday in Madrid by authorities who said they acted quickly to detain them because of fears the suspects were preparing to carry out an attack in Spain similar to recent attacks elsewhere in Europe.
The three men with Spanish residency between the ages of 26 and 29 were taken into custody in pre-dawn raids in Madrid and a suburb of the capital, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry didn't say whether the three had picked out a target or whether weapons were seized, but characterized the three as maximum risk suspects who were "extremely radicalized" and said authorities "had detected their full willingness to take action and carry out terrorist attacks."
In an interview on the Cadena Ser radio station, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said the "aim of the suspects was to act in Spain."
Spanish police have arrested about 50 suspected jihadi militants and recruiters so far this year, but Fernández Díaz said Tuesday's arrests were different because the suspects under detention weren't trying to go to Syria or recruit others to do so like most of those arrested in Spain.
His ministry has said that 131 people have left Spain to join the Islamic State group in recent years.
Fernández Díaz provided no details during the interview about whether the suspects had attack plans.
The arrest came two months after a Moroccan with Spanish residency tried to stage an attack on a high-speed train traveling to Paris.
Ayoub El-Khazzani had moved from the southern Spanish city of Algeciras to France in March 2014, had ties to radical Islam and was armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and other weapons when he tried to attack the Amsterdam-Paris train on Aug. 20. He shot one man and attacked another but was overcome by passengers.