The arrest last Tuesday of a young man of Pakistani origin in L’Hospitalet del Llobregat has allowed the National Police to prevent, for the second time so far this year, the implantation in Spain of violent cells related to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a radical Islamist movement with parliamentary representation in the Asian country that advocates the implementation of Islamic law and the execution of those they accuse of being blasphemers. The arrest has occurred at the request of the Italian Justice, within an anti-terrorist operation in which 14 other people have been arrested in the transalpine country, as reported by the Ministry of the Interior. In February, the Spanish police arrested five twentysomething supporters of this same movement in various towns in Catalonia and Andalusia for encouraging, through social networks, to assassinate those who demonstrated against Islam.
Sources close to the investigation point out that the five arrested three and a half months ago had no direct relationship with the one now arrested, although they add that they all had some kind of ties to Zaheer Hassan Mahmoud, the terrorist who, in September 2020, wounded gravity to two people in Paris near the former headquarters of charlie hebdo, the satirical magazine that had already suffered a jihadist attack in January 2015 in which eight of its collaborators died. Mahmound then assured that his intention was to attack the publication again due to his decision to re-disseminate the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The French police investigation then found links between him and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan.
The operation that has now led to the arrest of the alleged Islamist in L’Hospitalet began in April last year in Italy, when the Polizia di Stato detected the return to the transalpine country of a Pakistani citizen suspected of being part of the radical group and who had already he had been expelled two months earlier for carrying a large knife in a public place. The investigations of the Italian agents revealed that he published daily, through his Facebook and Tik Tok social network accounts, and a YouTube channel, numerous videos that showed him reciting texts in Urdu (the language spoken in Pakistan) in which violence was praised. In others he appeared along with other young people, also of Pakistani origin, brandishing machetes and large knives both indoors and in public spaces, simulating the beheading of other people, as reported by the Italian authorities on Wednesday.
Subsequent investigations revealed that the people who appeared in these videos were part of a larger terrorist cell based in several provinces of the transalpine country and, at least, in Spain. The members of it, self-styled “Group Gabar”, had had direct contact with the terrorist in Paris. Among the alleged members of the group was the detainee now in L’Hospitalet, for whom the Italian justice system issued a European Arrest and Surrender Order (OEDE). Agents from the Provincial Information Brigade of Barcelona, under the coordination of the General Information Police Station, located him and arrested him shortly after. The judge of the National High Court, María Tardón, has ordered his imprisonment.
As in the case of the group now dismantled in Italy, the operation that allowed the arrest last February of five young Pakistanis began after the September 2020 attack on the headquarters of the magazine charlie hebdo. That arrest triggered the alert among Spanish anti-terrorist experts due to the fear of being faced with a new terrorist phenomenon, especially after learning that the detainee had maintained contacts with a compatriot based in Barcelona. Police then placed him under surveillance. However, those investigations revealed that this first suspect did not represent any danger, but a third person resident in the Catalan capital with whom he was related.
The Police then decided to focus the investigation on the latter after verifying that, despite his youth – he had not yet turned 20 -, he had a great ascendancy over the rest of his compatriots with whom he was related and to whom he launched harangues in the who advocated the use of extreme violence. The investigations revealed that this group, like those now detained in Italy, used social networks as a propaganda device to disseminate audiovisual material, partly created by them, in which they praised the terrorist attacks that were being committed both in Europe and in Pakistan against those people they considered blasphemous.
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The agents found that its broadcast channels had numerous followers, and not only in Spain, but also in other European countries, such as France, Greece and, precisely, Italy. It was the increasing extension that their radical messages were reaching, which then precipitated the arrests. The alleged leader of the group was arrested in Barcelona; another two, in Girona; one more, in Úbeda (Jaén); and the last, in Granada. In the searches of their homes, the Police did not locate weapons or plans to commit a specific attack, but they did find abundant jihadist material.
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