Skip to main content

Suspected leader of Islamic militant cell arrested in Spain

By Al Goodman, CNN
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Tue September 17, 2013
Yassin Ahmed Laarbi, a Spaniard, was arrested in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Morocco's north coast.
Yassin Ahmed Laarbi, a Spaniard, was arrested in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Morocco's north coast.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eight other suspected colleagues were arrested in June
  • Suspected leader of cell taken into custody in Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Morocco coast
  • Suspects have sent fighters into Syria, court order says

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

Madrid (CNN) -- The alleged leader of an Islamic militant cell in Spain who escaped arrest in June when eight of his suspected colleagues were detained has been taken into custody, the Spanish Interior Ministry said Monday.

The suspect, Yassin Ahmed Laarbi, a Spaniard, was arrested Monday in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Morocco's north coast, where the eight other suspects also were detained on June 21, an Interior Ministry statement said.

The suspected cell was "a structure based in Spain, with connections in Morocco, Belgium, Turkey and Syria, dedicated to radicalizing, recruiting and sending mujahedeen (fighters) to Syria with the aim of conducting jihad and achieving martyrdom," according to a court order issued in June.

In that order, Judge Ismael Moreno of Spain's National Court ruled that the eight suspected Islamic militants should remain in prison on preliminary charges alleging membership in a terrorist group.

The group has connections to the Jabhat al-Nusra front, described as an active al Qaeda group in and around Syria, and to the Iraq Islamic State in Iraq, but "there are increasing references to carrying out jihad at home," the judge warned at the time, referring to potential attacks in Spain.

Read more: Spain arrests suspects linked to al Qaeda

The eight suspects sent at least 12 Spanish or Moroccan males, from both Ceuta and Morocco, to fight in Syria, the judge wrote. At least five died in suicide attacks in Syria that caused numerous casualties. One of the males was a minor; it was not immediately clear if he was among those who had died.

Some of the eight suspects intended to go to Syria, the judge added.

Monday's Interior Ministry statement said that Laarbi also "was a candidate to join up with those terrorist groups in Syria."

He was not at his home June 21 when the other suspects were arrested, the statement said.

The judge's order in June identified the suspected leader as Spaniard Karin Abdeselam Mohamed, 39.

But the Interior Ministry statement on Monday said Laarbi was the "suspected maximum leader" of the cell.

Spanish police in June said the suspected cell was based in Ceuta and in the nearby Moroccan city of Fnideq. Ceuta is an autonomous city of Spain that borders Morocco.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
While aspects of the fighting in Gaza resemble earlier clashes, this time feels different, writes military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 10:38 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
The death of an American from Ebola fuels fears of the further global spread of the virus.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Nearly two weeks after MH17 was blown out of the sky, Dutch investigators have yet to lay eyes on the wreckage. How useful will it be now?
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
The U.S. and EU are imposing new sanctions on Moscow -- but will they have any effect?
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
updated 8:48 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT