Spain has arrested eight people their law enforcement say were part of an Al Qaeda operation to recruit young people to go fight in Syria alongside rebel forces.
Raids were conducted by Spanish police forces Friday morning in the Ceuta territory, a Spanish controlled area located between the North African nation of Morocco and the Mediterranean Sea.
The raid came after an on-going investigation into Al Qaeda recruiters in the area lead anti-terrorism forces to the doorsteps of eight individuals who are now being charged with terrorist activities.
The suspects are accused of indoctrinating and providing funding to would-be jihadist fighters to go to Syria to fight among anti-Assad rebel sects. They were believed to be targeting young men.
The BBC reports that Spanish police officials have confirmed that all suspects were Spanish citizens. Over the past several months they had assisted in funneling rebel recruits out of Ceuta and Morocco to Syria.
Though anti-terrorism forces have declared the arrests to be a “hard blow” against Al Qaeda, their investigation into the jihadi recruitment ring will continue.
They believe there are several groups of recruits still in Spanish territory expecting to be transported to the fighting in Syria.
In May police were alerted by parents of a boy who had gone missing, fighting in Syria they claimed. In 2012 three people from the Ceuta territory were confirmed to have died in separate battles.
At present, anti-terrorism authorities say as many as 500 Europeans have been recruited to fight against Assad in Syria.
As Western countries like the US and UK debate how and to what extent to assist anti-Assad forces in Syria, it becomes increasingly obvious that picking out the “good guys” in this conflict is not straight-forward.
These arrests in Spain further highlight the difficulties of such decisions which, if the US is to support rebel groups, some of who are linked to terror groups like Al Qaeda, could create diplomatic turmoil among European nations less eager to fight Assad.