Five suspected extremists arrested in Spain, Belgium and Germany

Five suspected extremists arrested in Spain, Belgium and Germany

Five people suspected of forming a cell that spread propaganda and sought to recruit militants for Islamic State (IS) have been arrested by police in Spain, Belgium and Germany, officials said.

The Spanish Interior Ministry said the cell, made up of four Spaniards and one Moroccan, posed "a grave, concrete and continued threat to security in Europe".

A ministry statement said the five worked for IS by spreading information on several internet sites, among them a Facebook page called "Islam en Espanol" (Islam in Spanish).

The site, allegedly managed by two suspects arrested in Belgium and Germany, had 32,500 followers and was growing rapidly, the ministry added.

The statement said one suspect was arrested in Brussels and another in Wuppertal, Germany.

Two arrests took place in the Spanish city of Barcelona and one in the north African Spanish

enclave city of Melilla.

The ministry said the group praised and encouraged IS attacks and sought recruits.

It added that the cell directed its activities towards young Muslims of north-west African background.

The ministry said 113 suspected pro-jihad activists have been arrested in Spain since 2015 while Spanish police had helped arrest 30 more in other countries.

The European Union's anti-terrorism co-ordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, said the new arrests show just how much intelligence-sharing is improving.

"The security services and the law-enforcement agencies are sharing much more information than they were before," he said, on the sidelines of a conference on countering extremism by the Club de Madrid think-tank in Brussels.

"It's impressive to see the number of plots which have been foiled in recent weeks, the number of people who have been arrested."

In Germany, the state interior ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia released a statement saying police had detained a 20-year-old Spanish citizen with Moroccan ancestry who "allegedly spread videos with cruelties on social media mostly in Spain".

It said police also confiscated hard drives, laptops and mobile phones.

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