Spain smashes militant ring operating in 17 jails

Spain police have brought 25 prisoners in for questioning over suspicions of a militant ring involved in the radicalization of other prisoners in 17 jails. (AFP)
Updated 02 October 2018
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Spain smashes militant ring operating in 17 jails

  • Police have questioned 25 prisoners in different jails who are “accused of being part of a group close to Daesh which was dedicated to radicalizing other prisoners”
  • Anti-terrorism source said the ring did not have a “concrete plan” to carry out an attack, but it created a “belligerent state of mind toward prison staff”

MADRID: Police in Spain have dismantled a group that allegedly indoctrinated and recruited militants at 17 prisons across the country, the interior ministry said Tuesday.
Police have questioned 25 prisoners in different jails who are “accused of being part of a group close to Daesh which was dedicated to radicalizing other prisoners,” the ministry said in a statement.
The majority were Moroccans, or Spanish nationals of Moroccan origin, a Spanish anti-terrorism source said. The rest were Spanish nationals who had converted to Islam and a Danish national.
The ring, which was made up of prisoners with a history of jihadism or who were themselves radicalized while behind bars, also sought to unite prisoners serving time for terrorist crimes in a so-called “Prison Front.”
The ministry did not give details of the group’s activities but the anti-terrorism source said the ring did not have a “concrete plan” to carry out an attack. But it created a “belligerent state of mind toward prison staff.”
Some of the members of the group were to be released from prison soon.
“Although the investigation began by focusing on an inmate in a particular prison, to date the illegal activity of the group extended to 17 prisons, which account for 55 percent of jails that house prisoners linked to jihadist terrorism,” the statement said.
International studies show that prison radicalization is a problem in countries raging from Britain to the United States.
Vulnerable young men typically arrive in jail, isolated from family at a time of personal crisis, and become susceptible to recruitment by radicals.
Sixteen people were killed on August 17, 2017 when a van drove into crowds on Barcelona’s popular Las Ramblas boulevard and in a knife attack in the nearby resort of Cambrils.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the attacks, Spain’s worst since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 when 191 people died and more than 1,800 were injured.


China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

Updated 17 June 2019
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China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

  • Xi JingPing will be in Pyongyang at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
  • Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year

BEIJING: Xi Jinping will make the first trip to North Korea by a Chinese president in 14 years this week, state media said Monday, as Beijing tightens relations with Pyongyang amid tensions with the United States.
Xi will visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Chinese broadcaster CCTV.
The timing is likely to raise eyebrows at the White House as it comes one week before the G20 summit in Japan, where US President Donald Trump expects to meet with Xi to discuss their protracted trade war.
Analysts say Xi could now use North Korea as leverage in talks with Trump.
China and North Korea have worked to improve relations in the past year after they deteriorated as Beijing backed a series of UN sanctions against its Cold War-era ally over its nuclear activities.
The North’s leader Kim Jong Un has traveled to China — his country’s sole major ally — four times in the past year to meet Xi.
But Xi had yet to reciprocate until now. It will be the first trip there by a Chinese president since Hu Jintao went in 2005.
“China-DPRK relations have opened a new chapter,” CCTV said, adding that Xi and Kim have reached a “series of important consensus” in past meetings.
Xi and Kim will “push for new progress” in a political resolution of the Korean peninsula issue, according to CCTV, which cited an unnamed official.
With Beijing and Washington at loggerheads over trade, China is keen to remind Trump of its influence in Pyongyang, with whom his nuclear negotiations — a point of pride for the US president, who faces an election next year — are also at a deadlock.
“The signal would be that China remains a critical stakeholder,” said Jingdong Yuan, a professor specializing in Asia-Pacific security and Chinese foreign policy at the University of Sydney.
“You cannot ignore China and China can play a very important role,” he told AFP. Xi could thus use the trip as a “bargaining chip” in the US-China trade war, he added.
According to an informed source in Pyongyang, Beijing was keen to arrange a visit to North Korea ahead of any encounter between Xi and Trump at the G20 summit — with logistics finalized only last month.
In recent days, hundreds of soldiers and workers have been sprucing up the Friendship Tower in Pyongyang, pruning bushes and replanting flowerbeds on the approaches to the monument, which commemorates the millions of Chinese troops Mao Zedong sent to save the forces of Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, from defeat during the Korean War.
A detachment of soldiers in white jackets was also seen outside the Liberation War Museum — which includes a section on the Chinese contribution — potentially indicating that it may be on Xi’s itinerary.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it had learned about Xi’s travel plans last week.
“We hope that this visit will contribute to the early resumption of negotiations for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula which will lead to the settlement of lasting peace on the Korean peninsula,” the Blue House said.
It will be Xi’s first trip to North Korea since taking power in 2012, though he visited the country as vice president in 2008.
In contrast, Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year — an unbalanced exchange that has not gone unnoticed in Pyongyang.
According to diplomatic sources in the North Korean capital, after Kim’s many trips to meet Xi, there were increasingly strong feelings in Pyongyang that the Chinese leader should reciprocate for reasons of saving face.
“From a North Korean perspective, it’s time for Chairman Xi to visit,” said John Delury, an expert on US-China relations and Korean Peninsula affairs at Yonsei University in Seoul.
“They do keep score and it’s like four to zero,” he recently told AFP. “So far, Xi has approached China-North Korea relations very much as a function of US-China relations and kind of calculated in terms of that.”
The visit also comes as negotiations between Trump and Kim have soured after a second summit in February broke up without a deal, failing to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
Since then, Kim has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach.
Still, the nuclear situation is “under control for now,” said Delury.
“That creates a space, a window where Xi could make a visit without expecting like a missile test the day he leaves or something like that,” he said.