MADRID: Police in Spain have dismantled a group that allegedly indoctrinated and recruited militants at 17 prisons across the country, the interior ministry said Tuesday.
Police have questioned 25 prisoners in different jails who are “accused of being part of a group close to Daesh which was dedicated to radicalizing other prisoners,” the ministry said in a statement.
The majority were Moroccans, or Spanish nationals of Moroccan origin, a Spanish anti-terrorism source said. The rest were Spanish nationals who had converted to Islam and a Danish national.
The ring, which was made up of prisoners with a history of jihadism or who were themselves radicalized while behind bars, also sought to unite prisoners serving time for terrorist crimes in a so-called “Prison Front.”
The ministry did not give details of the group’s activities but the anti-terrorism source said the ring did not have a “concrete plan” to carry out an attack. But it created a “belligerent state of mind toward prison staff.”
Some of the members of the group were to be released from prison soon.
“Although the investigation began by focusing on an inmate in a particular prison, to date the illegal activity of the group extended to 17 prisons, which account for 55 percent of jails that house prisoners linked to jihadist terrorism,” the statement said.
International studies show that prison radicalization is a problem in countries raging from Britain to the United States.
Vulnerable young men typically arrive in jail, isolated from family at a time of personal crisis, and become susceptible to recruitment by radicals.
Sixteen people were killed on August 17, 2017 when a van drove into crowds on Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas boulevard and in a knife attack in the nearby resort of Cambrils.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the attacks, Spain’s worst since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 when 191 people died and more than 1,800 were injured.