Today the Spanish newspaper El Periodico published an interesting report based on extensive interviews with Spanish counterterrorism officials. According to the report, each month an average of 3 Spanish Muslims are recruited by jihadi networks either for suicide bombings in Iraq or for training in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen and Somalia.
The pattern is not new and similar to those reported in other European countries. Over the last few years Spain has dismantled various recruting networks, located mostly in the the southern regions and in the greater Barcelona area, some of them linked either to Zarqawi or to various Pakistani jihadist groups. And in May 2005, Mohammed Afalah, a member of the Madrid cell that carried out the March 11 train bombings, reportedly died in a suicide attack in Iraq.
What has changed over the last few months is the profile of the average recruits. While in the past they were mostly recent immigrants to Spain (immigration is indeed a recent phenomenon to Spain, having started on a large scale only in the early 1990s, coinciding with the economic boom), today's recruits tend to be mostly second-generation immigrants (mainly of Moroccan descent) and as young as 13. This confirms the trend seen in most European countries, where, unlike 5 years ago, the majority of individuals involved in jihadist activities are European-born.