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Police detain suspected Islamic State follower in Barcelona

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spanish police arrested a Moroccan man in Barcelona with suspected links to Islamic State who they believed was planning a militant attack, police said on Friday.

The man, described as deeply radicalised, was arrested after a joint investigation with security forces in Morocco and the United States, police said.

“The suspect intended to carry out a terrorist act, the details of which are unknown,” police said in a statement.

The arrested man’s links to Islamic State date back at least four years, police said, though he had not displayed any outward signs of radicalisation until recently.

A group of militant Islamists used a van to hit pedestrians in Barcelona’s La Rambla boulevard in August 2017 and carried out a follow-up attack in another Catalan municipality, killing 16 people in total.

The Morrocan man was arrested in an apartment in central Barcelona close to La Rambla, police said.

Officers wearing full-body suits and goggles checked several laptops inside the apartment, a police video showed. The arrested man was later escorted out of the building by masked policemen as armed officers surrounded the area.

After Spain imposed a coronavirus lockdown on March 14, the man’s interest in the jihadist movement increased, police said and he made public pledges of allegiance to Islamic State while declaring his hatred of the West on social media.

Police said he was likely to have been responding to calls from Islamic State for followers in the West to carry out attacks in the countries where they live.

In April, security forces in the southern city of Almeria captured arrested a British rapper who was on the run after fighting for the jihadist movement in Iraq and Syria.

Reporting by Inti Landauro, Nathan Allen and Joan Faus; Editing by Sonya Dowsett and Angus MacSwan