In a significant operation, the Guardia Civil has apprehended two individuals in Benavente and Cullera for their involvement in Spain’s largest known jihadist network targeting youth and minors for recruitment. The detainees were presented before a court on August 4th and subsequently remanded in provisional custody.
As part of a collaborative investigation carried out by the Guardia Civil’s Information Service and Morocco’s General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), the operation which began in mid-2022, targeted an intricate web of online extremism.
Initiated as part of preemptive efforts to counter potential terrorist threats to national security, the Guardia Civil’s Information Service launched an investigation into two individuals. Despite being geographically separated, they collaborated virtually to recruit and indoctrinate social media users into the principles of jihadist terrorism.
These individuals publicly disseminated terrorist content, allowing them to identify and engage users inclined towards radicalisation. Subsequently, these identified users were invited to join a private group managed by the detainees. This group spanned across over 10 provinces in Spain, amassing dozens of users.
Beyond the digital landscape, the investigation revealed that the detainees’ proselytising activities extended to physical spaces. Numerous public areas bore graffiti displaying slogans of the terrorist organisation DAESH. One such example was “DAWLAT AL ISLAM BAQUIYAH,” which translates to “Islamic State remains and expands.”
Spanish-speaking youths were the target
The primary target audience for the detainees’ indoctrination activities consisted predominantly of youths aged 18 and under. This indicated a deliberate attemp to influence an exceptionally vulnerable demographic. Furthermore, they employed a multi-platform strategy, exploiting popular social media platforms used by this age group.
The private group administered by the detainees served as a channel for audiovisual content, messages, and directives aimed at recruiting and radicalising new followers to the terrorist cause. Notably, the detainees independently translated and adapted original content from various languages related to the DAESH organisation. This confirmed their intention to engage the Spanish-speaking youth community.
The Guardia Civil’s intervention with potential victims, who were identified during the radicalisation process, was carefully devised in collaboration with specialised personnel experienced in assisting and intervening with vulnerable minors.
The operation’s success, hinged on cooperation with Morocco’s DGST. This further underscores the critical importance of international collaboration among counterterrorism agencies to address threats and the ongoing challenge of preempting terrorists’ actions.