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Jihadist groups– such as the Islamic State, use Arabic, French and English regularly in their propaganda messages, but now their organizations are reproducing content in Spanish to extend their influence in Latin America.
It is a new situation verified by Spanish security forces, now focused on the fight against “online” radicalization, since although they are aware that the quality of Daesh jihadists’ propaganda is dropping, their radical content continues to spread in the social media, now also in Spanish.
These are some of the concerns expressed this Thursday by Spanish counter-terrorism leaders at a conference organized by the Elcano Royal Institute on “Extremisms related to terrorism in the West: emerging and persistent challenges,” at which a report on the Muslim brotherhood in Spain was presented.
The conference was closed by the Spanish Secretary of State for Security, Rafael Pérez, who made terrorism and radicalization one of the priorities of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU, which Spain will assume in the second half of 2023.
Also concerned about “the new ways of radicalization” which must be “stopped”, Perez also insisted on “online” propaganda and recalled that in recent police actions agents have managed to identify 1,124 user profiles dedicated to disseminating terrorist and extremist content.
In these investigations, the Spanish security forces have located and removed 563 digital contents in 106 websites that served as a guide for the manufacture of explosives or for the preparation and execution of terrorist attacks.
The chief colonel of the Special Central Unit (UCE) 2 of the Civil Guard, Francisco José Vázquez, stressed the need that these organizations have to reach the whole world and, hence, the greater use of Spanish in their propaganda on the internet.
He acknowledged that the scrutiny of the networks to fight radicalization is the “daily headache” of the security forces, who carry out a huge activity to prevent the Internet from being the space where terrorists continue to manifest themselves.
Regarding the “physical sphere,” Vázquez placed radicalization in prisons as the area of greatest concern, but highlighted the work of penitentiary institutions to prevent it, with programs that are serving as an example for other countries.
The commissioner of the Spanish National Police, Manuel Rodríguez, made it clear that the security forces pursue crimes, not ideologies “however radical they may be,” and indicated that although not all radical behavior ends up in terrorism, he has yet not met any terrorist who had not been previously radicalized.
Rodriguez did not want to minimize the current threat because it persists even though there have been no serious attacks. And he gave an example: Al Qaeda seems to be in a “dormant” state now, but “at any moment it can send tangible threats”.
Nor did he rule out that the Sahel area, in North Africa, could become a sanctuary for fighters who want to go there for training, as was the case in Syria or Iraq.
The commander of the Spanish National Police also addressed the problem of returning fighters, including some who return from the Balkans, making it more difficult to detect them when they enter through land borders than those who may do so in the precarious vessels known in Spain as pateras.