Spain arrests suspected leader who sent jihadists to Syria

AFP , Monday 16 Sep 2013

Spanish national Yassin Ahmed Laarbia (aka Pistu) is accused of leading a group that sent 50 Islamist militants to Syria

Spanish police on Monday arrested the suspected leader of a cell linked to Al-Qaeda, which sent militants to Syria to carry out suicide bombings, the government said.

Police seized Yassin Ahmed Laarbi in the Spanish territory of Ceuta, which borders Morocco, on terrorism charges, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Laarbi, a Spanish national also known as Pistu, is accused of leading a group that sent about 50 Islamist militants to Syria, some of whom carried out suicide attacks.

"He is suspected of having been the top leader of an active network that recruited and radicalised mujahedeen and martyrs and sent them to terrorist groups in Syria," the statement said.

Police detained eight other members of the cell in Ceuta in June but did not capture Laarbi, who wasn't at home when officers came for him during the raids.

The network, operating in Ceuta and the neighbouring Moroccan town of Fnideq, was suspected of sending dozens of Islamist militants, including minors, to join "Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups operating in Syria," the ministry said at the time.

It said that some of those sent by the group carried out suicide attacks.

Laarbi himself "was a candidate to join terrorist groups in Syria," Monday's statement added.

European Union governments have expressed alarm at what they say are hundreds of young Europeans believed to be fighting alongside rebels in Syria.

Police also this month arrested a "suspected jihadist terrorist" wanted by Morocco in Spain's other north African enclave, Melilla.

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