Spanish police have arrested a Moroccan woman on suspicion of running a jihadist recruiting network for the Islamic State.
The arrests have, once again, cast a spotlight on the problem of radical Islam in Catalonia, which has the largest Muslim population in Spain. The region is home to an estimated 465,000 Muslims, who account for more than 6% of the total Catalan population of 7.5 million.
Catalonia is home to approximately 465,000 Muslims. At least 10% of them are estimated to be "radicals" who are hardcore believers in the "doctrine of jihadism." — Jofre Montoto, Catalan terrorism analyst.
In February, the lower house of the Spanish Congress approved far-reaching changes to the country's penal code, as a way to combat Islamic extremism and support for the Islamic State.
Under the new law, anyone convicted of carrying out a terrorist attack will be subject to a life sentence (35 years) without the possibility of parole. The law also calls for 20-year sentences for anyone convicted of supplying weapons to terrorists, or ten-year sentences for funding terror networks.
Samira Yerou, 32, was arrested at Barcelona's El Prat airport on March 7 upon her arrival on a flight from Turkey, where authorities had detained her for trying illegally to enter Syria with her three-year-old son, a Spanish citizen.
Police say Yerou, who lives in Rubí, a Catalan town situated 15 kilometers north of Barcelona, disappeared in December 2014, while her son's father, a Moroccan-Spaniard, was away on a trip to Morocco. Spanish authorities issued an international warrant for Yerou's arrest.
In a statement, the Spanish Interior Ministry said Yerou had specialized in recruiting women from Europe and North Africa to join the Islamic State. She allegedly became interested in militant Islam after visiting Morocco during the summer of 2013, and later became radicalized through the Internet by "spending many hours consulting" jihadist websites. The boy, who was unharmed, has been returned to his father.