Nine arrested in counter-terrorism operation in Catalonia
Barcelona (ACN).- Early this morning, the Catalan police force (Mossos d’Esquadra) carried out an important anti-jihadist operation in six Catalan municipalities. There were 9 arrests in 12 major raids in Barcelona and the surrounding municipalities of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Cornellà, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Ripollet, and Masquefa. The Catalan Minister of Home Affairs, Jordi Jané, announced that some of the “arrests made today are in connection with the terrorist attacks in Brussels”. He added that there is no evidence of any planned attack in Catalonia. Jané highlighted the collaboration between the Catalan and Belgian police forces.
The police operation represents the final phase of an investigation conducted by Central Court 6 of the Spanish National High Court. During the operation, specialized squads of the Mossos d’Esquadra carried out 12 raids and arrested 9 individuals. Three of the arrested individuals are suspected to have connections with the authors of the terrorist attacks at Brussels’ metro and airport.
The Catalan Minister of Home Affairs, Jordi Jané, confirmed the confiscation of a large amount of money, drugs, and firearms as well as digital information, which still has to be analyzed. According to Jané there is no evidence so far that the arrested individuals were planning an attack in Catalonia but he added that it cannot be ruled out. The minister highlighted the successful collaboration between the Catalan police force (Mossos d’Esquadra), the Belgian police, and the Spanish police.
Of the arrested individuals 8 are from Morocco and one from Spain. Even though not all of them are charged with the same crimes, they are all charged with a at least five: ties with or belonging to terrorist groups, ties with or belonging to organized crime groups related to illegal drug trade, illegal possession of firearms, money laundering, and misappropriation. Most of the 9 arrested suspects have been residents in Catalonia for more than 20 years.
The investigation was opened eight months ago after the analysis of several separate citizen reports and the Catalan police force's prevention work confirmed the existence of an organized group connected to jihadist activities and related to organized crime. At least 3 of the 9 arrested individuals are suspected to have had connections to the authors of the Brussels attacks, the rest are suspected to be related to illegal drug trade. The suspects have been called to declare before the judge on Thursday.
Tuesday’s anti-jihadist operation was coordinated with the Belgian police within the EU program Eurojust, according to the Catalan police forces who informed the Audiencia Nacional, which is the leading investigator. A joint investigation team of Belgian and Catalan police forces was created immediately. Over the last few months they had been exchanging information and finally determined the direct connection of the arrested individuals with jihadist terrorism.
On the other hand the scope of the investigation also required the collaboration between the Mossos d’Esquadra and the CNI, the Spanish National Intelligence Center, in order to inform the latter about the development of the investigations, exchange information, and coordinate with Spanish police forces. This Tuesday morning Spanish and Belgian Federal Police agents also participated in the operation. There were also raids in Morocco.