RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Spanish and Moroccan police said Tuesday they had arrested seven suspected members of a terror network spread across their two countries aimed at recruiting women for the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry said two heads of the group were based in Fnideq, just outside the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, where women were brought from Spain and indoctrinated with jihadi thought.
European authorities have noticed a sharp increase in the recruitment of women from Europe for the Islamic State group in the past year, with at least 100 coming just from France.
The women were to be used as suicide bombers or married off to jihadi fighters, said the Moroccan statement.
Accounts from the areas under Islamic State control in Syria describe large numbers of foreign women working as cooks, cleaners and in child care.
European officials say these networks, many operating online, target young people in search of their identity with the aim of planting multi-generational roots for an Islamic caliphate.
The Spanish statement said four women, including one minor, were among the five arrested in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla as well as the mainland city of Barcelona. One of the women holds Chilean citizenship, Chilean Interior and Security Minister Rodrigo Penailillo told reporters.
Both Spain and Morocco have arrested dozens of suspect jihadi militants and recruiters in recent years, with networks often centered on northern Morocco and the Spanish enclaves.
There are more than 1,200 Moroccans reportedly fighting in Syria, with more than 100 arrested upon their return.
In July, Morocco sounded the alarm over the threat of terrorist attacks from those returning from Syria and Iraq and boosted security in public places.
The cell was in contact with Moroccan commanders fighting with the Islamic State feared to be planning attacks in the kingdom as well, the Moroccan statement said.
Giles reported from Madrid. Associated Press writer Luis Henao in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.