16th June 2024
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Madrid imam arrested by Guardia Civil for ‘radicalising minors’

Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Thursday that they had arrested a 44-year-old imam who worked as an Arabic teacher and used his position ‘to radicalise minors’ and recruit possible Islamic State (IS) members.

The suspect was arrested on 29 November following an investigation that began last year after police identified him as having links to jihadist ideology and trying to indoctrinate minors.

The suspect, who worked at a Madrid mosque, had been detained ‘for using his role as a teacher to radicalise the minors he taught and to recruit potential members for Daesh’, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group.

‘The detainee presented the minors with a violent view of religion using the same language as the main jihadist terrorist organisations,’ the police said in a statement.

‘In his talks, he praised the idea of the suicide bomber as a legitimate figure in the fight against Jews, Christians and apostates. He expanded on these theories in his classes as an example of behaviour all Muslims should follow,’ the statement said.

As an imam, the suspect had led prayers and taught at the Madrid mosque, but when the community became aware of what he was doing, he was forced to step down.

‘These activities did not pass unnoticed within the community, which created conflict and meant the suspect was forced to leave the mosque and continue his activities in more private places,’ the Guardia Civil’s statement said.

In 2014, IS proclaimed a self-styled ‘caliphate’ across swathes of Syria and Iraq, but it collapsed five years later, although the extremist group still continues to carry out and claim attacks.

Since 2015, Spain has been on alert level four, out of a maximum of five, with the last major attack in August 2017 when a group of young radicalised Moroccans mowed down pedestrians in Barcelona and the nearby seaside town of Cambrils, killing 16 people and wounding 150.

Those attacks were masterminded by an imam based in the Catalan town of Ripoll who had recruited and radicalised a group of youngsters, almost all of whom were shot dead by the police following the bloodshed. The imam himself died in an accidental explosion while they were preparing the attack. ALSO READ: Three convicted for Barcelona terror attack – sentences from 8 to 53 years.

Spain suffered its most deadly attack on 11 March 2004, when Al Qaeda-inspired extremists blew up four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring around 2,000.

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