MADRID (Reuters) - Spain arrested eight men suspected of recruiting militants for Islamist group ISIL which is waging war in Iraq, including a former fighter in Afghanistan previously detained in Guantanamo Bay, the Interior Ministry said.
The men had helped to send recruits through to the Middle East where they would join ISIL, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
“The main leader of this (recruitment) cell lived in Spain after having spent time at the (U.S. detention center) in Guantanamo, having been arrested in Afghanistan in 2001,” the ministry said.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has seized large parts of Iraq in a lightning campaign that has sent thousands of civilians fleeing for safety.
It aims to establish a caliphate on both sides of the Syria-Iraqi frontier based on strict medieval Sunni Muslim precepts.
It was unclear whether the eight men arrested were suspected of recruiting for ISIL’s campaign in Iraq.
Spanish police made the arrests in Madrid shortly after 0230 GMT and would be searching a dozen premises as part of their ongoing investigation, the ministry said.
In the past two years Spain has arrested several dozen people - both on the Spanish mainland and in the country’s enclaves Ceuta and Melilla in northern Africa - accused of recruiting and training Islamist fighters to send to Syria and other conflict zones.
Reporting By Inmaculada Sanz; writing by Sarah Morris; Editing by Susan Fenton