The ringleader has been operating through the Spanish prison system, calling into question not only Spanish “deradicalisation” programmes but also security procedures currently in place in Spanish prisons.
Critics say the “rehabilitating” of Islamic militants for eventual “reinsertion” into society have proven to be a lost case.
Of the roughly 270 inmates currently monitored for jihadist ties, only 20 have actively been participating in deradicalisation programs, according to the Spanish news agency EFE.
The Interior Ministry has admitted their failure of oversight. “The majority of the individuals being investigated, far from being deradicalised, have not only remained active in jihadi militancy, but have become even more radical during their incarceration.”
According to human rights protections guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution, such programs can only be applied on a voluntary basis.
The group’s core members included 25 jihadis in 17 different prisons according to details provided by the Interior Ministry on the counterterrorism operation on October 2.
The group — which the Interior Ministry described as a jihadi “Prisons Front” (“frente de cárceles”) — had been recruiting, indoctrinating and radicalising other inmates, while at the same time plotting new terror attacks.
The network’s members included several Spanish citizens now converted to Islam. Some of the network’s members were waiting to be released from prison soon.
The ringleader, Mohamed Achraf, is a 44-year-old Moroccan whose real name is Abderramane Tahiri, scheduled to be released from the Murcia prison next week — almost four years early
But the local Murcia newspaper La Verdad, quoting police sources, reported that Achraf will likely be prosecuted for new terrorism offenses will be held in preventive detention instead of being allowed to walk free.
He was serving a 14-year prison sentence for plotting truck bomb attacks against high-profile targets in Madrid, including the Spanish Supreme Court and the Príncipe Pío railway station.
According to counterterrorism police, Achraf was running a “disciplined and organised” network of inmates dedicated to jihad.
Investigators also found correspondence between Achraf and other inmates stating: “Muslims now have two places to go: jail or jihad.”
In April 2005, Achraf was extradited to Spain from Switzerland, where he fled after his previous release from prison, and where he unsuccessfully sought asylum by claiming to be Palestinian.
A recent analysis of official prison data by the online publication El Independiente found that more than 150 mostly Moroccan inmates were currently serving time in 28 different Spanish prisons for jihad-related crimes.
In addition, another 120 inmates serving time for non-jihad-related crimes are being monitored for signs of “Islamist fanaticism,” according to the newspaper El País, quoting sources from the Interior Ministry.